Catholic Priest Vows Lawsuit against AG Nessel after His Counseling License Suspended
By Cole Waterman
May 30, 2019
|Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 at the Frank Kelley Law Library in the Williams Building in Lansing. Nessel gave updates on Michigan State University, Catholic Church and Flint water investigations. (Jake May | MLive.com)|
A Catholic priest restricted from religious work by the Archdiocese of Detroit based on a sexual assault allegation said he plans to sue Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for suspending his counseling license, a newspaper reports.
Nessel on Friday, May 24, announced she was charging five priests who once ministered throughout the state with a total of 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct. She also stated her office was suspending Lawrence M. Ventline’s license to practice as a limited-license counselor.
In a May 15 order of summary suspension, Nessel alleges Ventline sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy during the 1989-1990 school year, when Ventline was a pastor in a parish and school within the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications director for the Attorney General’s Office, told MLive/The Saginaw News Nessel could not criminally charge Ventline due to the statute of limitations running out. The case had been investigated by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office personnel.
Ventline is now 70 and lives in the Port Austin area of Huron County.
The Huron Daily Tribune reports it received a copy of an email from Ventline after Nessel’s announcement, in which he claims he will file a lawsuit to sue the "Catholic axe-grinding same-gender attracted AG Nessel.”
MLive could not reach Ventline for comment.
In 2016, the Archdiocese restricted Ventline from public ministry after learning of the abuse allegations. Prior to that, he had not been assigned to full-time parish ministry for nearly 20 years, the organization reports on its website.
Ventline in 1999 obtained a limited professional counseling license. According to Nessel’s document, Ventline suffered from ongoing mental health problems worsened by the stresses of his counseling service.
In February 2017, Ventline was noncompliant with his physician’s treatment recommendations, Nessel alleged.
Despite such recommendations, Ventline continued providing non-secular counseling services, Nessel alleges. In September 2018, he advertised himself as a board-certified professional counselor and a Ph.D.-holder offering heroin-recovery services, she said.
On at least one occasion in 2019, Ventline failed to clarify he held an educationally limited license, “instead referring to his degree in psychology and prices that compared to others who held a Ph.D,” according to Nessel’s complaint. There is also no evidence Ventline provided his non-secular counseling services under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor, as is required by the Public Health Code.
Nessel’s seven-count complaint concludes by stating Ventline has 30 days to submit a written response to the allegations. His response is to be submitted to the Bureau of Professional Licensing, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
As of Thursday, May 30, Ventline had not filed the response. He also had not filed a lawsuit against Nessel.
In a public Facebook post responding to the suspension order, Ventline proclaimed himself a victim and said the then-11-year-old boy he was accused of assaulting had told a “fiction.”
“Shame on him and Nessal [sic] for attempting to ruin another victim — me — who is falsely accused,” Ventline wrote in all caps. He also criticized Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.
“Archbishop Vigneron used this wrongful claim to oust me based on his his [sic] conclusion that I am gay,” he wrote. “Shame on him again! If I were, Vigneron’s lack of respect for the GBLT community is abominable!”
Ventline accuses Nessel of being anti-Catholic, saying she was “’taking (it) out’ on clergy since the church frowns upon your lesbian union.”
Nessel is Michigan’s first openly gay attorney general and is married.
The Archdiocese of Detroit took issue with Ventline’s statements and responded in an email to MLive.
“The Archdiocese of Detroit stands by its 2016 decision that removed Lawrence Ventline from ministry and is repulsed by comments attributed to him in recent media reports,” said Director of Public Affairs Ned McGrath. "In particular, Ventline’s personal attacks against Attorney General Dana Nessel have no place in public discourse. In addition, any threat of a lawsuit by him has absolutely no support or involvement from the Detroit archdiocese.”