Bishop Boyea Alleges Priest Abuse against the Late Rev. Martin

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
August 25 2010

[with video]

Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea, left, publicized molestation allegations against the Rev. John Martin, right, who died in 1968.

Some of them were barely teenagers when it happened.

Now, as men in their 60s and 70s, they felt compelled to tell -- to share the secret that has scarred them.

These men were sexually abused by a parish priest, a man who pastored St. Isidore Catholic Church in Laingsburg from 1941 to 1966.

The Rev. John Martin, who died in 1968, was a community stalwart who coached baseball and swimming. He also molested young boys, six men have said.

In a rare move by the U.S. Catholic Church, which has been battered by the priest sex abuse scandal for about a decade, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea revealed the allegations against Martin and encouraged victims to talk.

"It's a little unusual that we're making public these allegations against a man who has been dead for 42 years and can't defend himself," said Lansing Diocese spokesman Michael Diebold. "But the stories from the victims are coming with such consistency. And the bishop believes them."

Boyea is quoted in the Lansing State Journal as saying he is grateful the victims came forward. "Hopefully, we can provide some healing for them."

Priest sex abuse claims grew from 2

Six men who have said they were abused as children by Lansing-area Catholic priest the Rev. Martin will be offered free counseling, have an opportunity to tell their stories to Lansing Bishop Boyea and be invited to attend healing retreats for those sexually abused by priests.

The Lansing Diocese first received complaints against Martin in early June. That's when two of the victims shared their stories with the Rev. Duaine Pamment, pastor of St. Isidore in Laingsburg, where Martin was the pastor from 1941 to 1966.

Pamment alerted Boyea, who printed notices in the bulletins of parishes where Martin served, asking those who had concerns about Martin to share them. Four more men came forward.

It's yet another example of the ripple effects from the priest abuse scandal that has engulfed and tarnished the U.S. Catholic Church in recent years.

Although victims advocates have said that most dioceses do not release the names of dead priests for whom they've received credible sexual abuse accusations, they maintain that the Lansing bishop reacted too slowly to the Martin case.

"The minute one accuser is deemed credible is when a bishop should come clean," said David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) organization based in Chicago.

"We'd encourage other brave victims and whistle-blowers to contact other independent sources for help. And to call law enforcement officials rather than church officials," Clohessy said.

Prosecutor can't act

The six victims were between the ages of 11 and 17 in the 1950s and '60s , when they say the abuse occurred. They are now in their 60s and 70s. Diocese spokesman Michael Diebold said the victims do not want to be identified.

"In many cases, these are men who haven't shared this with their wife or children or anybody," Diebold said.

Martin was born in 1890 and died in 1968. The diocese has learned that he also was involved in community life outside the church, coaching baseball and swimming teams.

Diebold said the victims have not received any cash settlements.

Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry said Tuesday that his office could take no action because Martin is deceased.

Colbry said that several years ago, the Lansing Diocese allowed a staffer from the prosecutor's office to review the diocese's files. Spokesman Diebold said prosecutors from other counties that include the diocese's parishes also reviewed the files.

"We were invited to go through all their files and make sure there wasn't something in there that needed pursuing," Colbry said. "I sent an assistant prosecutor over to do it.

"It appears to me that the diocese is handling this properly." No local complaints

Diebold said it's policy for Boyea's office to alert the pertinent prosecutor's office any time it receives an abuse complaint about a priest, even before the diocese conducts its own investigation.

Martin also served at St. Mary Parish in Morrice (1938-41) and St. Philip Parish in Battle Creek (1932-38), which is now a part of the Diocese of Kalamazoo. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, he served at Sacred Heart Parish in Yale (1923-32) and St. Vincent in Detroit (1918-23), which is now closed.

Diebold said those dioceses have been notified of the allegations against Martin.

Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said it plans to put a notice in the Michigan Catholic newspaper about Martin. McGrath said the archdiocese did not know of any local complaints against Martin.

It should not be surprising that the allegations against Martin are just surfacing, said Clohessy of SNAP.

"When these men were boys, virtually all sex was taboo sex. Sexual abuse by a man was more taboo. And by a priest, almost unthinkable," Clohessy said.

"For most victims, speaking up is healing, and doing nothing just prolongs the pain."

Contact PATRICIA MONTEMURRI: 313-223-4538 or


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