Archdiocese Didn't Publicize Priest's Abuse Cases, Group Says

By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press
October 26, 2009

The head of a group that fights child abuse by priests said today that Catholic officials in Detroit failed to publicize the abuse cases of a Catholic seminarian from Detroit who had previously abused children, but is now working as a priest in the Philippines.

And it said that a former member of a Detroit-based religious order continued to teach in classrooms despite allegations of abuse.

Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said today that the Archdiocese of Detroit failed to make the public aware of the case of Joseph Skelton Jr., a Detroit native who once studied at a Catholic seminary in Plymouth. He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in his seminary room. He resigned from the seminary in 1988.

And this month, a settlement was reached involving allegations that Skelton was involved in the abuse of a 14-year-old boy in Washington, D.C., in 1984, according to attorneys involved in the case.

In a statement today, the Archdiocese of Detroit said that “Joseph Skelton is not a cleric of the Detroit archdiocese nor is he ministering in southeast Michigan. Studying for the priesthood at St. John Provincial Seminary in 1988, he was accused of sexual misconduct and dismissed from the school. In a public court proceeding, he was prosecuted and convicted for his activity. Not unlike any other institution of higher learning, the archdiocesan seminary does not track or hold responsibility for every student who ever attended classes but left before ordination … In summary, Joseph Skelton does not minister here nor would he be welcome or permitted to function as a priest in this archdiocese.”

Skelton now works as a missionary priest of the Diocese of Tagbilaran in the Province of Bohol, Philippines. According to his Web site, he “regularly travels across the Philippines leading Praise & Worship sessions.”

According to a letter provided by Blaine, the Archdiocese of Detroit did send a private letter in 2003 to a Catholic official in the Philippines, telling them about Skelton’s criminal past. But Blaine said such a private letter does nothing to notify parents, churches, and the public about Skelton’s actions.

Blaine also cited the case of Thomas Gardipee, who was once part of a Catholic religious order based in Detroit, the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order. The archdiocese said he never served in metro Detroit.

Gardipee was banned from the order after a series of news reports about abuse in the Milwaukee Journal in 1992. Criminal charges were filed against him, but were dismissed in 1993, according to a statement from the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph. Gardipee later became a teacher in Hawaii.

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