Priest abuse case shows why state investigation needed, advocacy group says

By Ryan Boldrey
Kalamazoo Gazette
August 23, 2019

Brian Stanley, a former priest with St. Margaret’s Church in Otsego, is being charged with felony false imprisonment of a teenage boy for an alleged incident that is said to have occurred in 2013.

After two investigations into a former Otsego priest this decade resulted in zero charges, a leading support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse points to a recent investigation by the Michigan State Attorney General’s Office into the same priest as to just why it is imperative to continue to investigate sexual misconduct where it allegedly occurred.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a statement in response to Thursday’s charges levied against the Rev. Brian Stanley by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, calling out the Diocese of Kalamazoo for not doing enough when it was warranted.

“Without her team taking a closer look at church records, it is likely that Father Stanley would never have faced criminal charges. Instead, communities are better informed, and children are safer thanks to her ongoing investigation,” said Zach Hiner, the executive director for SNAP.

Stanley has been charged with felony false imprisonment of a 17-year-old boy, who according to the attorney general’s office, Stanley was asked by the boy’s parents to counsel. Charges by Nessel’s office accuse the priest of “secreting away” the boy and “holding him against his will in the janitor’s room of St. Margaret’s Church in 2013.”

“Stanley reportedly immobilized the young man by wrapping him tightly in plastic wrap, then used masking tape as additional binding to cover his eyes and mouth," the AG’s office states. “Stanley left the victim, bound and alone, in the janitor’s room for over an hour before returning and eventually letting him go.”

The alleged crime, according to Nessel, is considered “sexually motivated” and if convicted, Stanley would be required to register as a sex offender and face up to 15 years in prison.

The incident, according to the diocese, was first reported to the Diocese of Kalamazoo in 2013, prompting Stanley to be placed on administrative leave immediately, according to a statement from the diocese. The diocese states that it reported the allegation to Child Protective Services, who in turn referred the matter to the Otsego Police Department.

“We promptly placed Father Brian Stanley on administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation. According to the Otsego Police Department, ‘the complaint was not criminal and there would be no charges,’” reads a statement from the diocese.

Stanley was then reinstated, but four years later the diocese learned of additional allegations involving Stanley and reported those incidents to the Coldwater Police Department; however, no charges were filed by law enforcement, the diocese said. This time he was not reinstated, according to the diocese.

“We placed Father Stanley on administrative leave from active ministry in January 2017. He remains on administrative leave and is prohibited from public ministry,” the diocese states.

SNAP, a nonprofit that was founded in 1989 and has offered assistance to more than 25,000 survivors of sexual abuse, says the actions by the diocese were not enough.

According to the attorney general’s office, which began investigating this case along with hundreds of others across the state in 2018, it was apparent from Kalamazoo Diocesan records that Stanley had been engaging in this type of conduct for decades.

“This less than adequate response by the Diocese of Kalamazoo is emblematic of why we believe investigations like AG Nessel’s are so important,” Hiner said. “We hope that this news will inspire the 30 other attorneys general who have yet to open an investigation into clergy abuse within their states. We also hope that these probes will be completely independent, backed up with search warrants and subpoena power.”

SNAP calls on church officials throughout the state to use parish bulletins, church websites and to make announcements from the pulpit to share information about Stanley’s case “to encourage victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward and make a report to law enforcement.”

The organization asks anyone who has suspicions about cases of clergy abuse to call 1-844-324-3374 or to use this confidential, online reporting form.

“We hope this story inspires others who may be suffering in silence to come forward, make a report to the AG, and start healing," Hiner said.

Stanley is due back in court for a probable cause hearing Aug. 29 in Allegan County.



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