Archdiocese to Hold Canonical Trial for Priest in Abuse Case
Fr. James Wysocki Protested Removal; Another Is Defrocked

By Kim Kozlowski
Detroit News
January 12, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest contesting charges of sexual abuse with a minor will be the subject of the Archdiocese of Detroit's first canonical trial in 20 years, church officials announced Sunday.

In addition, another priest, Joseph Sito, was the first in Metro Detroit to be defrocked by Pope John Paul II at the request Detroit Archbishop Cardinal Adam Maida.

The developments are the latest in the archdiocese's efforts to address the clergy child sex abuse scandal that involved more than 20 priests from the region. Many of those priests will also face a canonical trial to determine their fate. "We started to work on this right away to protect everyone's rights," said Ned McGrath, archdiocese spokesman. "It's a very detailed, complex process and we've been proceeding as best as we can."

The Rev. James Wysocki, former pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Marine City, will be the archdiocese's first priest to face a canonical trial this year, though no date has been set.

The trial will involve at least three priests from outside the archdiocese acting as judges. They will determine if the accused has sexually abused a minor. If so, the penalty would be dismissal from the ministry, according to Bishop Walter Hurley, a canon lawyer.

After the charges were brought against him last February, Wysocki stopped serving in the Marine City parish, but refused to officially resign as pastor. Maida placed him on administrative leave.

Wysocki, 63, could not be reached Sunday, but he could still lead the parish, McGrath said.

Vatican officials, however, last week sided with Maida in his decision to remove Wysocki following substantive allegations of sexual allegations from more than one teen-age boy during the early years of his career.

Wysocki was ordained in 1967, served as associate pastor at St. Michael Parish in Pontiac and also as a chaplain and counselor at Pontiac Catholic High School. In 1977, he became pastor of St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish in New Baltimore. He was not charged criminally.

Maida told parishioners of the Vatican news in a letter and sent Bishop Earl Boyea to install the Rev. Timothy Birney as pastor of Holy Cross on Sunday. Birney had been serving as the administrator.

"It is my hope and prayer ... Holy Cross parish will continue to move forward in our communion of service of the Lord and his people," Maida wrote.

Meanwhile, Joseph Sito, 68, formerly of St. Cletus in Warren, was defrocked because of sexual abuse of boys. He was placed on administrative leave in May 1993 following more than one allegation of sexual abuse with minors. Additional restrictions were placed on Sito, 68, in 2002 because of another abuse case in which he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Maida asked Sito to leave the priesthood in a proceeding known as laicization. Since Sito did not ask the Vatican to be laicized, Maida did it for him. Sito could not be reached for comment.

Typically, priests seek to be laicized because they want to marry, but Maida has asked two other priests to apply for the process because of sexual abuse with minors, and they did so willingly.


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