Mount Clemens Church Pastor Suspended, Accused of Failing to Report Sex Abuse Claims

By Joe Rossiter
Detroit Free Press
February 12, 2012|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

The pastor of a Mt. Clemens church has been temporarily suspended after failing to promptly report allegations that a minor had been sexually assaulted on church property by a parishioner, according to a news release the Archdiocese of Detroit issued today.

A statement read to the parish by Bishop Michael Byrnes during weekend masses said the Rev. Michael Cooney, 63, is not involved in the allegations, but he is accused of failing to promptly report "what he knew to law enforcement authorities, and to provide a safe environment for children and young people on parish property," according to the release.

According to the release, Cooney told the archdiocese in December that Macomb County authorities were conducting an investigation of alleged criminal sexual conduct on church property.

On Friday, Michael Lentini, 19, of Macomb Township was arraigned in 41-B District Court in Clinton Township on one charge of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, Macomb County Sheriff Tony Wickersham said Sunday night. Lentini was given a $20,000 personal bond and released Friday.

Wickersham said the minor girl is 14 and knew Lentini. Her mother brought her to the sheriff's office to file a report, Wickersham said. He said the mother told him she had made the priest aware of the alleged incident before she came to police.

Wickersham said the alleged incident occurred in a basement area following a mass in early December.

A message for comment left tonight at a number listed as Lentini's was not immediately returned.

"Because there was an active criminal investigation underway, the Detroit archdiocese did not take any actions or pursue any on-site investigations on behalf of the church until civil authorities were completely done," Byrnes said in the statement. Byrnes, who has been appointed administrator of the parish, said the archdiocese holds Cooney accountable for his response in the case and that the archdiocese will conduct a full review.

Cooney is cooperating with the archdiocese, according to the statement.



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