Another Lansing Priest Accused of Molestation

By Patricia Montemurri and Chris Christoff
Detroit Free Press
August 26 2010

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing was rocked Wednesday by revelations about another deceased priest, accused of sexually molesting a boy decades ago.

After the alleged victim refused a confidentiality agreement and accepted a settlement of $225,000, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea acknowledged that the diocese paid the money this week to a man who said he was abused in the 1950s by Msgr. John Slowey, who led Catholic Social Services of Lansing.

David Mittleman, a lawyer for the victim, said his client says he was about 5 or 6 years old when he was molested by Slowey at the St. Vincent orphanage, where the man and his siblings were placed from June 1954 to March 1955. Slowey died in 1983 at age 68.

Since 2002, when the priest abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. Catholic Church, the Diocese of Lansing has removed four priests from public ministry because of credible allegations against them. The men are prevented from working, dressing or identifying themselves as priests.

Within the last two days, Lansing-area Catholics have learned that two priests, both dead, are being accused of child molestation. On Tuesday, Bishop Boyea publicly identified a different priest, the Rev. John Martin, who died in 1968, as having abused at least six boys at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Laingsburg.

Slowey's alleged victim, an attorney, came forward after years of mental struggles that snowballed into a breakdown in 2008, which left him unable to work, Mittleman said.

Mittleman said the client is a friend who came to him in early 2009 to explore possible legal action. After meetings in September and October with diocese officials, plans for a settlement were put into motion. "I believe they found my client credible," he said.

The victim decided to publicly announce the abuse following the revelation of the Laingsburg case this week, Mittleman said.

In a phone interview with the Free Press, Bishop Boyea said he settled the Slowey case for purposes of "risk management."

Boyea said it was cheaper to pay $225,000 than the costs of a potential court case. Boyea said the diocese probably would have prevailed in court, because Michigan's statute of limitations on seeking damages in such instances likely would have resulted in the case being thrown out.

"Something happened to this gentleman, and we do not know what it was," Boyea said. "It's one of those recovered memory things that many have discounted. I don't know what his credibility is."

Lansing spokesman Michael Diebold said the diocese has received no other complaints about Slowey.

Currently, Michigan law contains a statute of limitation on filing civil lawsuits for past abuse. The law requires a victim to bring suit within two years of the abuse; however, if the abuse happened when the person was underage, the victim has until one year past an 18th birthday to sue.

Bills in the Legislature to extend the statute of limitations have stalled -- partly because of lobbying against some of the changes by the Michigan Catholic Conference and other organizations. A Michigan Catholic Conference spokesman said Wednesday it supports extending the statute of limitations for future cases, but not to resolve past issues.

Mittleman said three or four other lawyers refused to take the case because of what Mittleman called "Michigan's anti-victim laws that shield pedophile priests, scoutmasters and the like."

"While no amount of money can restore the shattered trust stolen from childhood, a settlement of this type is a clear signal of recognition of such a crippling and devastating betrayal," Mittleman said.

Mittleman said the diocese has not taken steps to alert others, as they did with the Rev. Martin in Laingsburg.

Contact PATRICIA MONTEMURRI: 313-223-4538 or


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