Lansing Diocese: $225k Paid to Man Who Claimed Abuse by Priest(w/video)

By Kathleen Lavey
Lansing State Journal
August 26 2010

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing confirmed Wednesday that it paid $225,000 to a man who says he was abused by a priest in the 1950s at the St. Vincent children's home.

The settlement was signed July 27 by the man and on Aug. 11 by Bishop Earl Boyea, leader of the 10-county diocese. It was paid on Aug. 17 by a diocesan insurance policy.

The agreement is the second incident made public this week regarding alleged abuse decades ago by priests who have since died.

On Monday, Boyea said he believes the Rev. John Martin, a priest at St. Isidore in Laingsburg from 1941 to 1966, abused at least a half-dozen boys in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Martin died in 1968.

In the case confirmed Wednesday, a man, who did not want to be named publicly, claims he was abused by Monsignor John Slowey, founder in 1952 of the St. Vincent children's home.

The man's attorney, David Mittleman, said the man and his siblings were sent by their parents to St. Vincent on West Willow Street in June 1954 and reunited with their family in March 1955.

Payment confirmed

Mittleman said his client repressed the memory for years and recalled it in full about 18 months ago. In the text of the settlement, the diocese denies the allegations.

Michael Diebold, spokesman for the diocese, confirmed the payment and said the diocese chose not to make the settlement public because the accusation against Slowey, who died in 1983, cannot be substantiated or refuted.

"We simply don't know," he said. "This is the only complaint that has been made against Slowey, either before or after his death."

That's a key difference from the Laingsburg case.

Boyea said Monday he believes a half-dozen claims of abuse made against Martin are true because multiple victims who were not in contact with each other told strikingly similar stories. He said he made the information public in hopes that any additional victims who need psychological help could come forward.

"We have pledged that, if we become aware of a substantiated report of abuse, we will publicize it," Diebold said.

Handling allegations

Diebold said if allegations are made against a living priest, they are immediately passed to criminal prosecutors for investigation. If allegations are substantiated, the priest is removed from ministry, whether or not a criminal prosecution proceeds.

Mittleman said the Diocese of Lansing would not have settled the claim if officials didn't find his client credible. A church review board listened to his client's story last fall.

Mittleman said his client had a breakdown when he recalled the repressed memory and is no longer able to work as an attorney because of it.

'Very serious matter'

Diebold said a settlement does not acknowledge the diocese believes Slowey abused anyone.

"Even if we get an allegation that we can't substantiate, we continue to support those who claim they have been abused," he said. "If that support includes assistance in getting counseling, we'll do that."

Julie Picot, spokeswoman for St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which runs the St. Vincent Home for Children, said the allegation "is a very serious matter" to St. Vincent staffers.

"It's a reminder of the vulnerability of those we serve and the importance of keeping them safe," she said.

She said modern safeguards against abuse include background checks of all staff and volunteers, cameras operating in the children's home, and an open design in the new building, completed in 2004.



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