Diocese of Saginaw brings in retiring judge for internal review of priest abuse allegations
The Diocese of Saginaw is bringing in a retiring Michigan Appeals Court judge to be part of the church’s internal investigations into sexual abuse allegations against several priests.
Michael Talbot announced earlier this year he is retiring as chief judge of Michigan’s Court of Appeals, after four decades on the bench.
Talbot also chaired the Detroit Archdiocese Board of Review, which dealt with Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.
Saginaw church leaders have been accused of not cooperating with police investigators into allegations against at least two priests.
Authorities served search warrants on several church properties, including the bishop’s home.
Along with appointing Talbot, the diocese is also releasing the names of five former clerics accused of sexual abuse:
· Stanislaus A. Bur (former priest – deceased)
· John E. Hammer (former priest)
· Richard L Howard (former deacon)
· Jack E. Leipert (former priest)
· Leonard F. Wilkuski (former priest)
Bishop Joseph Cistone says he hopes this will give the diocese “a fresh start” and help show church leaders are “sensitive” to the public’s and victims concerns.
Saginaw County prosecutors office criticized the diocese's decision to handle the allegations internally.
In a tersely word statement, the prosecutors disagree with the procedure outlined by Bishop Cistone.
"The Diocese cannot and should not be used as a clearing house for the reporting of crimes by victims. That is the function of law enforcement. Any victims of abuse or other crimes should report their allegations directly to law enforcement as opposed to the Diocese or Judge Talbot, its independent delegate."
The statement goes on to say county prosecutors expect the Diocese of Saginaw to turn over any information it receives .