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Home / Safe Environments / Status Report

Detroit Archdiocese: Priests and Policy Status Report
from Ned McGrath, Director of Communications

"The Archdiocese of Detroit implemented its Policy on the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy in 1988; it has been revised three times. The most recent draft, promulgated in May of 2003, takes into consideration:  

  • recent events and experiences

  • the document enacted in June 2002 by the bishops of the United States, The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (The Dallas Charter)

  • the November revisions to the Dallas Charter and the additional revisions to select canonical (Church law) provisions, known as The Essential Norms, that accompany the Dallas Charter

"As written, the provisions of the Dallas Charter and The Essential Norms to permanently remove a priest from ministry are to be utilized when the sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, certified either through an admission from the priest himself or by a determination that can be proven to a canonical standard. (See Canon Law Backgrounder)

"This process, as required by Church law, involves canonical investigations that are reviewed and confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) at the Vatican. To date, CDF has affirmed the findings of canonical trials and appeals involving these Detroit priests and rendered the penalty of being permanently removed from public ministry: Edmund Borycz, William Brennan, Gary Bueche, Michael Daly, Jude Ellinghausen, Joseph Femminineo, Robert Haener, Richard Kelly, Dennis Laesch, Michael Malawy, Alfred Miller, Timothy Murray, and James Wysocki.

"In their current status, these clerics are to lead a life of prayer and penance, are restricted from any public ministry and not allowed to present themselves publicly as a priest or deacon. In some cases, additional restrictions have been placed upon them. Monitoring duties are handled by Ina Grant, who serves as the Promoter of Ministerial Standards. Additional contact and communication with these clerics is coordinated by the archbishop's delegate, Msgr. G. Michael Bugarin, with assistance from Msgrs. Patrick Halfpenny and Michael LeFevre of the Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life.

"In the following Detroit cases, the CDF rendered the penalty of laicization, dismissal from the clerical state: Anthony Conti, Dennis Duggan, Ralph Quane, and Joseph Sito, along with former deacon Frank Mullen.

Other Cases

"Frs. Pat DeAngelo, Robert Burkholder, Lawrence Edwards, Walter Lezuchowski, Lawrence Nawrocki, Thomas Physician, Gerald Shirilla, Timothy Szott, Peter Van der Linden, Ronald Williams, and Robert Wyzgoski, whose situations were previously handled under the archdiocesan policy, are deceased. Fr. John Martin, deceased, was ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit, but later became part of the Diocese of Lansing, which is handling his case under its diocesan policy. Gerald Vesnaugh, whose case was processed years before the establishment of the archdiocesan policy, has left the priesthood.

"Harry Benjamin and Dennis Martell (deceased) were ordained for the archdiocese but were previously laicized by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. A backgrounder from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the 'Loss of the Clerical State' offers more detail on what it means for the priest — and his former resident diocese — when he is dispensed from his sacramental obligations and returned to the status of a layman. (See USCCB Backgrounder
"Edward Olszewski and Gary Berthiaume were ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit, but incardinated/transferred to other arch/dioceses — Olszewski to Miami; Berthiaume to Cleveland, where he was later laicized. Harold Depp once served as a priest of the Detroit archdiocese. Jason Sigler, ordained for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, has left the priesthood but served briefly in the Detroit archdiocese and the Lansing diocese as a visiting priest. Fr. Luis Javier de Alba Campos of the Diocese of San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, served briefly in the Detroit archdiocese as an extern priest. Fr. Joseph Skelton, a former Detroit seminarian, is now a priest of the Diocese of Taglibaran in the Philippines.                    

"As for the religious order priests who have served or resided in the archdiocese, Frs. Neil Emon, Bruce Maxwell, Jim Moeglein, and Thomas O'Brien are Crosier Fathers (OSC); Fr. Thomas Johnston is a Dominican priest (OP); Fr. Chet Warren is an Oblate priest (OSFS); Fr. John Powell, a Jesuit priest (SJ), has died. Their respective provincials would have the latest information on their status.

Public Information

"In describing the status of those archdiocesan priests whose cases remain under review, examples can be found in how the media describes a lawyer who has been disbarred, a doctor who has had his license revoked, or a police officer who has been suspended. And to clarify the role of the archdiocese in these situations, it can be said that while the Church is responsible for these priests' ministerial assignments, they themselves, as private citizens, are responsible for their personal behavior and society rightly holds them accountable.  

"Additionally, the names of these priests have been made public by the archdiocese and shared with civil authorities. Their stories have been reported in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Michigan Catholic, and more often than not in the major daily newspapers, and on radio and television; their current status is posted on the archdiocesan web site. In most of these cases, the priests have been offered and accepted professional counseling or treatment protocols. These individuals, who are not in public ministry, may not want to share their addresses and/or current living arrangements with reporters or the public.That is their choice to make; the archdiocese will not try to influence that decision. 
"As it would with for any and all of its workers and/or hired staff, the archdiocese would respectfully decline to discuss specific details of the current 'personnel arrangements' with these priests, such as their support or medical benefits. Under Canon Law, a bishop must provide some level of support for his diocesan priests, regardless of their status.

Process and Prevention

"In September of 2002, the newly constituted Board of Review was introduced; it is led by a lay chairman, and its members include a psychologist, a prosecutor, a retired judge, a health care executive, and a canon lawyer. Four of the board members are parents.  

"In November of 2002, the canonical norms that accompanied the Dallas Charter received Vatican approval (or recognitio); they became effective March 1, 2003.  Polices & Procedures Regarding Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, Deacons and Other Church Personnel, as published by Detroit's archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida, is considered "particular law" for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

"Since 2003, the Detroit archdiocese has been audited annually by the Boston-based Gavin Group for the USCCB. The on-site reviews are meant to assess how the nation's dioceses have complied with the Dallas Charter.  The first report was issued in early 2004. That year and every year since, the Detroit archdiocese has been found to be in full compliance.

"Over the years, the Detroit archdiocese has received special recognition from the auditors for its agreement with civil authorities in the six counties of the archdiocese for handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Additionally, the Detroit archdiocese also received special commendations for its mandated background check requirements for employees and volunteers; for its safe environment programs; for its communications policy and procedures assisting parishes directly affected by abuse; and for its written sexual abuse policy dating back 20-plus years.

"In February of 2004, the Detroit archdiocese published 'Promise to Protect. Pledge to Heal,' a special supplement of The Michigan Catholic newspaper which included: the number of clerics involved in sexual abuse allegations since 1950; the percentage of clerics involved in sexual abuse allegations; the number of victims known to the Archdiocese of Detroit; and, the costs of settlements and counseling. Also published was a letter from the Archdiocesan Review Board to Cardinal Maida summarizing their deliberations since September 2002.

"Also in February of 2004, two ground-breaking reports were issued in Washington, D.C. The John Jay Study, a report commissioned by the USCCB on the sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons in the United States between 1950 and 2002, and the Report on the Causes and Context of the Current Crisis in the Catholic Church from the National Review Board.

"The Detroit archdiocese's audit results, local figures, and other child protection materials are posted elsewhere on this website. The John Jay Study and National Review Report, along with additional resource materials, are available via the USCCB website of The Office of Child and Youth Protection."

from Ned McGrath  
Director of Communications
August 2010

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