Sixth Woman Claims Abuse by Local Priest
The Woman's Attorney Says She May Ask That the Diocese Cover Her Counseling Costs

Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
April 20, 2002

Another woman has come forward with allegations that the Rev. John Thomas Sullivan, a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, sexually abused her when she was an adolescent.

The woman contacted a local attorney after an April 6 story in the Press reported a $500,000 settlement between the diocese and three sisters who said they were abused by Sullivan, who died in 1999.

The article stirred up painful feelings for the area woman, who says she was abused by Sullivan more than once while he was in the Grand Rapids diocese from 1958 to 1960, said her attorney, Mary Dinkel.

"She thought she'd dealt with it, and then read your story and was devastated," Dinkel said.

Dinkel said she "absolutely" believes the woman's claims, but declined to give details about the allegations. The woman is considering asking the diocese to help cover costs for counseling required as a result of the abuse, she said.

"It's been very difficult for her," Dinkel said. "We're still just figuring out the best way to proceed and if she even wants to proceed."

She is at least the third woman to contact local attorneys alleging abuse by Sullivan since reports of the 1994 settlement were published two weeks ago. The women receiving that settlement said Sullivan sexually abused them while they were children and teens at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Grand Rapids.

Sullivan also served at St. Jude parish on Grand Rapids' Northeast Side and St. Patrick of Grand Haven. Dinkel said her client was abused in Grand Rapids but would not say at which church.

Diocesan officials have encouraged people who believe they were abused by priests to contact them for assistance. The diocese has not gotten any calls since making the offer, spokeswoman Mary Haarman said.

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