Burton Priest Steps Down, Admits Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire [Burton, Mich.]
March 30, 2002

A priest who abruptly resigned as pastor of a Catholic Church in this community near Flint admitted having "inappropriate sexual contact" with a minor in a letter read to parishioners.

The admission followed allegations by a former Flint Township man who said the Rev. Vincent DeLorenzo, now 63, molested him over a five-year period starting in the late 1970s, The Flint Journal reported Saturday.

"Many years ago, I had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor," DeLorenzo said in the statement read during Good Friday services at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. "This has caused harm to that young person. I am sorry it happened and now publicly apologize for what I did."

DeLorenzo, who was not present at the church, said he sought medical and psychological treatment in January and resigned after nearly 14 years as Holy Redeemer's pastor, keeping with Lansing diocesan policy on sexual misconduct.

His Jan. 23 resignation came shortly after Robert Dallas Oskey, 32, said he confronted DeLorenzo and church officials about the alleged abuse.

"I do feel ... a responsibility to share my story if it can help others who have lived through this similar awful experience." Oskey told The Journal in a telephone interview from his home in Virginia.

Oskey, who remained close to DeLorenzo over the years, said he finally decided to deal with the trauma caused by the abuse.

"My life was put on hold for 32 years because of it. It's all of our responsibility to stand up and do what's right, to just be aware of this stuff," he said.

The admission comes as the Roman Catholic Church deals with publicity surrounding sex-abuse allegations involving clergy. Revelations that the Archdiocese of Boston failed to banish priests accused of child molestation have been repeated in parishes across the country.

Called "Father D." by parishioners and friends, DeLorenzo was known for his sense of humor.

His statement was read to the congregation during a service given by the Rev. Timothy Nelson, who was named temporary parish administrator after the priest quit for "personal and health reasons."

DeLorenzo's status remains as a resigned priest, according to diocese officials. It was unclear where he is living.

DeLorenzo's brother, Frank DeLorenzo, of Flint, said attorneys have advised the priest's family not to discuss the allegations. The lawyers will respond "when the time is right," he said.

"Our family is devastated. I'm sure the Oskey family is devastated," Frank DeLorenzo said. "Beyond that, I'm very concerned about all the people in the congregation who may be hurt. I would ask that everyone pray for all of the people affected in this, including the Oskeys."

Oskey, a former St. Pius student, said he met the priest at his First Communion, held in the family's home. After that, DeLorenzo began inviting him to stay overnight at the rectory so his nephew had someone to play with, Oskey said.

Sexual contact began during the second visit and always involved the priest fondling him, Oskey said. Oskey estimated DeLorenzo fondled him about 100 times over the next several years.

"He'd take me out of school and take me to lunch," Oskey said. "There were a lot of kids who were pretty jealous. He built the relationship. He had the key to the city. His presence was so enormous."

Oskey said he was in the eighth or ninth grade when DeLorenzo told him he had to stop. While the two remained close, Oskey said, he came to realized the abuse was causing havoc in his life.

Oskey said he revealed the allegations to his parents on Jan. 14, then discussed them with a Holy Redeemer church deacon. DeLorenzo soon stepped down, Oskey said.

State police in Flint Township investigated Oskey's allegations and brought the case to the Genesee County prosecutor's office about a month ago.

Prosecutor Arthur A. Busch confirmed Friday he is looking into the matter. But he said the statute of limitations could make it difficult to file charges.


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