Church Settled Charges in Cash
Archdiocese Let Priest Stay, Paid His Accuser

By Patricia Montemurri and Alexa Capeloto
Detroit Free Press
April 11, 2002

The Archdiocese of Detroit made a secret cash settlement several years ago with a man who said he was sexually molested by the Rev. Gary Bueche, but Bueche was allowed to remain as pastor of a Macomb County parish until last week.

Archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath confirmed this week that a payment was made in the 1990s to a person alleging he was molested in the 1970s by Bueche. Bueche had been chaplain at Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods from 1973 to 1977.

After the cash settlement, Bueche was allowed to continue as a pastor, even though similar allegations made against other priests in the Detroit Archdiocese resulted in their ouster from parish ministry. The archdiocese's treatment of the allegations against Bueche goes to the heart of the scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide. The church has beenstung by revelations that priests accused of sexual abuse were shielded from the scrutiny of law enforcement and moved from assignment to assignment.

Bueche, 57, was removed as pastor of SS. John and Paul in Washington Township on April 1. McGrath said a review of the allegation that prompted the settlement, plus new information, caused the action.

"Information about Father Bueche had come in before, but hadn't raised itself to the proper standard," McGrath said.

"The case basically stayed open. The settlement of the case didn't necessarily conclude the case," McGrath said Wednesday.

Cardinal Adam Maida "asked us to go back over all the old files, and we were doing that, and as we were doing that, other new information came to light."

McGrath said. "We made the determination that the allegation had a credible foundation."

Bueche could not be reached for comment.

The Free Press located the man who received the settlement, but he said he could not comment about Bueche because of a confidentiality agreement between himself and the Archdiocese. No lawsuit was ever filed in the case.

Two other men have told the Free Press that Bueche assaulted them after the priest came to know them at Bishop Gallagher.

Church officials handled the allegation against Bueche internally, without informing law enforcement agencies.

McGrath acknowledged that allegations in the Bueche case were handled differently than other accusations made against priests. He said the archdiocese has made settlements confidentially, either at the request of the alleged victim or the archdiocese, "because when it's being settled, the allegation might not have been proven."

McGrath said he would not say how much the archdiocese paid Bueche's alleged victim, and said he did not know the priest's whereabouts.

Bueche was ordained in 1970 and first was stationed at Dearborn Sacred Heart parish. He was pastor of St. Francis Cabrini in Allen Park from 1988 to 1998 and St. Germaine in St. Clair Shores from 1982 to 1986. Bueche also worked as the archdiocese's point person in recruiting new priests.

Archdiocese officials said they haven't reported to law enforcement decades-old allegations of abuse lodged against priests because, in many instances, the cases are too old to prosecute because of statutes of limitation.

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca takes issue with that argument.

"Just because the statute of limitations has run doesn't mean the individual has stopped their potentially abusive activity," he said Wednesday.

After Bueche was ousted from his parish last week, Bishop Gallagher graduate Steve Watz called the Detroit Archdiocese official who oversees the investigation of priests accused of misconduct.

Watz, who attended Bishop Gallagher from 1976 to 1980, said he told Bishop Kevin Britt last week that Bueche attempted to massage him when Watz went to the priest's home in the late 1970s. Bueche pushed Watz to the floor and straddled his back while pulling up the boy's shirt, Watz recalled Wednesday. Watz said he fended Bueche off, left the home and never returned.

Watz said he called Britt and decided to go public to lend credence to the allegations against Bueche.

"I have nothing to gain from this," he said. "My goal is to keep him away from children. If this helps do that, that's what I'm trying to do."


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