Gaylord Diocese Removes 2 Priests

By Bill Echlin
Traverse City Record-Eagle
August 28, 2002

Gaylord — Two more northern Michigan Roman Catholic priests have been removed from active ministry by the Diocese of Gaylord following investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of minors decades ago, diocese officials said Tuesday.

A statement from the diocese said it has no other pending investigations of allegations of sexual abuse of minors against priests.

The Rev. James Holtz has resigned as pastor of the parishes of St. Mary of the Woods in Kalkaska and St. Aloysius in Fife Lake.

He had also served as Adjutant Judicial Vicar in the Diocesan Tribunal and has resigned that position as well.

The diocese investigated a report that Holtz had sexually abused a minor in the early 1980s.

Investigators for the diocese said they were told the incidents happened while Holtz was under the influence of alcohol and before he received treatment for alcohol abuse about 18 years ago.

The Rev. John Tupper, a senior priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, who has been serving in hospital ministry and assisting with weekend Masses in various parishes, has been placed on administrative leave.

Earlier this summer diocese officials said they were contacted by a person who charged that Tupper was involved in inappropriate conduct involving a minor approximately 30 years ago.

During the diocese' investigation, a second person alleged that Tupper engaged in inappropriate conduct with them as well.

Tupper denies the allegations, the diocese said.

The results of the investigations were presented to the Diocesan Misconduct Commission for review and the commission recommended that the diocese follow the national Charter for the Protection of Children adopted by American bishops in Dallas in June.

The charter mandates the removal from public ministry of anyone who has been involved in sexual misconduct with a minor in the past, present or future. The actions concerning Holtz and Tupper will remain in effect unless other information refuting the allegations surfaces, a diocesan statement said.

The priests must not perform any official public functions such as conducting Mass, doing baptisms or weddings. They do, however, continue to be priests, diocese spokeswoman Candace Neff said.

Tuesday's announcement followed announcements in June and July that four priests were no longer in active ministry following allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

Identified at that time were the Rev. Patrick Barrett of Mapleton and the Rev. Ron Gronowski, who headed up churches in Lake City and Manton.

Barrett, who publicly denied charges against him, was placed on leave pending further investigation of 30-year-old allegations. Gronowski stepped down in May after admitting to sexual misconduct with a teen-ager in the 1970s.

Three other deceased priests, who were not named, were also subjects of the investigation that involved reviews of diocesan records of complaints about sexual misconduct by priests.

Another priest, the Rev. Gerald Shirilla, an Archdiocese of Detroit priest, was terminated from his assignment at an Alpena church following publicity over accusations that he molested boys and young men while serving years ago in the Detroit area.

The diocese has been in contact with prosecutors in the 21 counties it serves and informed them of the results of its investigations. So far none of them have informed the diocese of any follow-up action, Neff said.

"Obviously the past several months have been very difficult for all concerned," Bishop Patrick R. Cooney wrote in a press release. "We have learned that the effects of abuse are often life-altering for everyone involved, regardless of who the perpetrator is or the specifics of an individual case. There is so much pain and anguish."

Cooney said the diocese is committed to the protection of children and said it will look for ways to assure no one suffers from any kind of abuse in the future.


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