Catholic Clergy Asks Worshipers to Keep Faith

By Christopher Noble
Reuters, carried in Detroit Free Press
April 1, 2002

Catholic leaders around the country called on the faithful Sunday to maintain their belief in the church in the face of sexual-abuse allegations that include new admissions by a Flint priest that he had inappropriate contact with a boy more than 20 years ago.

Rev. Vincent DeLorenzo, 63, made the admission in a statement after recent allegations that he sexually abused an 8-year-old boy during a five-year period beginning in the late 1970s, the Flint Journal reported Sunday.

"Many years ago, I had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor," DeLorenzo said in the statement that was read during services on Friday and Saturday at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton, outside of Flint.

"This has caused harm to that young person. I am sorry it happened and now publicly apologize for what I did," he wrote in the statement.

DeLorenzo resigned in January after Robert Oskey, 32, said he confronted DeLorenzo and reported the alleged abuse to church officials, the Flint Journal reported.

"I do feel ... a responsibility to share my story if it can help others who have lived through this similar awful experience," the paper reported Oskey said from his home in Virginia.

Oskey said DeLorenzo fondled him more than 100 times over a five-year period while he attended the St. Pius X Catholic Church in Flint Township, where he served at the time. He said he finally decided to face the abuse and the havoc it wreaked on his life.

"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," Oskey told the newspaper.

DeLorenzo, who was not at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton when the statement was read, said he sought medical and psychological treatment in January and resigned. He was pastor for 14 years at the church.

Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur Busch told the newspaper he is looking into the abuse allegations, but added that the statute of limitations could pose an obstacle to any prosecution of DeLorenzo.

Two other Michigan priests left their parishes last month as the Catholic Church weathers a storm of criticism over its often-secretive handling of sex-abuse allegations involving clergy.

The Rev. Gerald Shirilla, 63, was removed from St. Mary Church in Alpena, where he was hired as pastor in August. He resurfaced there nine years after the Archdiocese of Detroit barred him from active ministry, saying there was credible evidence in 1993 that he had molested boys decades earlier.

A Detroit priest, the Rev. Dennis Duggan, left his two parishes after the Archdiocese of Detroit received a complaint against him on its telephone line established for reporting complaints of sexual misconduct by clergy.

The archdiocese did not reveal details of the complaint against Duggan, but spokesman Richard Laskos said it was sexual in nature.

Wayne County officials are also investigating an allegation by a woman in her 40s that an unnamed priest abused her.

In Boston, rocked by its own sexual-abuse scandal, Cardinal Bernard Law encouraged worshipers at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross not to be shaken. He said "even though we carry in our hearts those who bear the wounds of betrayal ... especially by clergy, even though we experience the pain of dissent within the church ... nonetheless we fix our gaze with unshakable faith on the risen Lord."

Outside the cathedral, a handful of protesters carried signs calling attention to the scandal and demanding Law's resignation.

A former Boston priest has been accused by about 130 people of molesting them during a more than 30-year career as a Boston-area priest.

The priest, John Geoghan, is serving a nine-to-10-year prison sentence for fondling a schoolboy. The Boston diocese has settled dozens of cases against Geoghan for about $45 million and there are scores more suits outstanding stemming from claims against Geoghan and other Boston priests.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.