Teen Boys Involved in Priest Case

By Angela Mullins
Times Herald [Port Huron MI]
May 7, 2002

Memphis - Allegations of sexual misconduct early in his career filed against the Rev. Anthony J. "Tony" Conti involve teen-age boys, officials with the Archdiocese of Detroit confirmed Monday.

Conti, 53, who resigned from All Saints Catholic Church in Memphis, has taken a leave of absence from the ministry.

Also taking a leave of absence amid similar allegations was the Rev. Dennis Laesch, 47, of St. Alfred Church in Taylor. "Neither of the allegations involves young children, but it does involve minors under the age of 18," Richard Laskos, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said after a morning news conference.

Conti legally changed his last name from Helinski to Conti in 1989 but the name change has nothing to do with the allegations, Laskos said.

Both Conti and Laesch will remain on leaves of absence, which were announced to church members Sunday, while the cases are investigated. Laskos said no timeline has been set for the investigations.

The Rev. Leo Broderick, a Clay Township resident and senior priest with the archdiocese, has been assigned as temporary administrator of All Saints.

The archdiocese last week turned over internal records about 51 priests, two deacons and a religious brother who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past 15 years.

The record transfer followed an April 25 deal between the church and prosecutors from the six counties served by the archdiocese, which has about 1.4 million members in Lapeer, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair counties.

Of those, two files were reviewed in St. Clair County and 11 in Macomb County.

Conti, who has served at seven churches in Macomb and Wayne Counties since 1976, was not included in the files given to either St. Clair or Macomb counties, prosecutors said.

The Wayne County prosecutor's office could not be reached for comment Monday.

"The two reports that came into the St. Clair County office did not involve any current members of the clergy," said Mary Kelly, chief assistant prosecutor.

"One report contained no verified reports by the victim and the other report concerned allegations dating back to the 1960s," she said.

Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga said he plans to do a thorough investigation of Conti, although none of the allegations against him have been linked to his time in Memphis, which is split between Macomb and St. Clair counties. The church, on Main Street, is in Macomb County In the meantime, many of the 250 families who attend All Saints said they will continue to stand behind Conti throughout the investigation.

Several are expected to attend a special prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"When you work for so many years to develop an institution, it's hard to see something like this happen," said Bill Dolan, 73, a member of All Saints since 1950.

"We are all still very shocked."


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