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Priests accused of sex abuse turned to under-the-radar group

Jul 29, 2019
priest collar
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The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

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A sixth priest was arrested on Monday morning by special agents from Attorney General Dana Nessel's office as part of Nessel's ongoing investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic church.

Father Joseph Baker was charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct first degree (sexual penetration with a person under 13). His arraignment will be in the 29th District Court in Wayne.

 

Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron
Courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit

Detroit's Catholic Archdiocese says it will implement new standards for reporting and dealing with sexual misconduct allegations within the church. That's after U.S. bishops approved the changes this week.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says people will be able to report concerns by phone and online to a third-party.

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Published reports claim a police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by priests turned up a file labelled "victim list" during a raid on Catholic church properties in Saginaw. 

MLive and the Saginaw News obtained the paperwork connected to a warrant executed in March of last year. 

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Saginaw’s new Catholic bishop says he’s committed to “transparency and accountability” on matters concerning sexual abuse by priests.

A Catholic priest
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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct against five men following a clergy abuse investigation. Four of the men have been arrested, while one awaits extradition from India. 

A Catholic priest
Adobe Stock

Michigan’s attorney general wants to use the state’s share of a national bank fraud settlement to investigate sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests.

State Attorney General Dana Nessel says this would be the best use of the money collected from Wells Fargo for misleading and improperly charging fees to customers.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw county prosecutors say the prospect of audio recordings of himself being played in open court prompted a Catholic priest to plead no contest in a sexual assault case.

Last week, a jury acquitted Rev. Robert Deland Jr. on charges he sexually assaulted two teens. 

But before a second trial on additional charges could begin this week, Deland pleaded no contest to a sexual assault charge and two other charges.  

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A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has responded to comments by attorney general Dana Nessel about ongoing sexual abuse investigations. Nessel called on the church to stop its internal investigations so that police could handle sexual abuse complaints.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It started last October.

More than 70 police officers, special agents and government officials executed search warrants on each of the seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan simultaneously. They loaded vehicles with boxes and filing cabinets – everything they could find related to potential sexual abuse by priests who have worked in Michigan from 1950 until now.

Attorney General Dana Nessel says Michigan is the first state to execute a search warrant on the Church in this way.

Father Jim Houbeck and Father Ed Prus
Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

Taking that first step down a career path can be daunting, like stepping into a world completely unknown. On the flip side, if you’ve been walking that road a long time, chances are you’ve learned a thing or two.

Father Jim Houbeck, a newly ordained Catholic priest, sat down with Father Ed Prus, who has recently retired, to discuss their lives in this vocation. Their conversation is part of Stateside's Work in Progress series, where we bring together two people to talk about what it's like to be at opposite ends of the same career path. 

Bishop in chair
Catholic Diocese of Lansing

The Diocese of Lansing has announced plans to review its handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic clerics.

Bishop of Lansing Earl Boyea shared his plans on the website of the Lansing Diocese earlier this week.

In his statement, Bishop Boyea said the review will be conducted by an outside agency of lay professionals.

He said their report will be made public and will list the names of clerics who sexually abused minors in the Lansing Diocese.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Prosecutors and police say a Catholic priest’s ‘no contest’ pleas to sexual abuse charges this week will give his victims closure.

Father Robert Deland was scheduled to face the first of three trials this week. The charges related to incidents involving three young men, between the ages of 17 and 21. But before jury selection could begin, Deland entered 'no contest' pleas to six felony and one misdemeanor charge. 

Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron
Courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit

 


The Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border has generated criticism and condemnation.

The so-called "zero tolerance" policy resulted in the separation of 1,995 children from their families during the six-week period between April 16 and May 31. That number is now estimated to be well over 2,000 children. 

This weekend, current first lady Melania Trump as well as all living former first ladies — both Republican and Democrat — spoke out against the policy. 

Christian leaders across denominations have also publicly condemned the measure. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

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.

Bishop Joseph Cistone celebrating Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Saginaw.
Catholic Diocese of Saginaw / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Father Robert DeLand was the priest entrusted with recruiting and guiding young men thinking of becoming Catholic priests. He was also the pastor of a parish in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. Now, he stands accused of sexual assault and gross indecency based on the accusations of a 17-year-old high school student and a 21-year-old man.

Saginaw County Jail

A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw has been arrested for a second time on sexual assault charges.

Father Robert Deland was arrested for the first time on Feb. 25, and charged with sexual assault of two victims, a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy.

Those charges included second degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency.

Deland was released with a GPS tether device, and was arrested again on April 5 on four additional charges.

Christian Cross
Waiting For The Word / Flickr CC /

A Catholic priest in the Marquette diocese is on administrative leave after a recent allegation of sexual misconduct.

The diocese says Father Frank M. Lenz has been removed from public ministry as a precautionary measure while the allegation is investigated. The diocese says the complaint was reported to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s office, which did not immediately return a request for comment.

A diocese press release calls the allegation a "credible complaint" alleging sexual misconduct by Lenz with a minor dating back to the 1970s. Lenz denies the allegation.

St. Agnes Parish in Freeland
Diocese of Saginaw

Saginaw County Prosecutor John McColgan Jr. assigned the investigation of sexual abuse involving officials in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw to a special team that will work with Saginaw and Tittabawassee police and the Michigan State Police, as well as state and federal agencies. The move follows sexual assault charges against Rev. Robert DeLand, Jr. filed last month.

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The Catholic Church's lobbying arm in Michigan says it has concerns with a bill that would retroactively lengthen the time limit for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

the Solanus Center

70,000 people are expected to pack Ford Field Saturday.

Not for a football game, but for a Mass to celebrate the life of a Catholic priest who is one step away from sainthood.

Fr. Solanus Casey died 60 years ago, but he continues to be an inspiration to many.  During his lifetime, he developed a reputation of a simple man who inspired faith and healed the sick.    

Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Detroit

 

Pope Francis has elevated a Michigan priest another step closer to sainthood.

The pope announced that Father Solanus Casey, a member of the Capuchin Franciscan Order of St. Joseph in Detroit and one of the co-founders of the city’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen, has been elevated from Venerable to Blessed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron
Courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit

The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit is holding a meeting to determine its priorities for the coming years. It’s called a synod, and since the Archdiocese was established in 1833, there have been only ten. The last one was in the 1960s.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron joined Stateside to talk about this rare gathering. He said the impetus for the Synod came from no less than Pope Francis himself.

A brick church
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Members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit held a unique service on Friday called “Mass for Pardon.”

Leaders at the Archdiocese said it's important to ask forgiveness for sins the Catholic Church has committed as an institution. 

Former altar girl pens chapbook on clerical sexual abuse

May 10, 2016
Chapbook cover for "The Witness"
Kelly Fordon

Writer and poet Kelly Fordon grew up as a Catholic altar girl in the 1970s, and has published The Witness, a chapbook centered around sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Chapbooks are used by poets to focus on a single theme or topic. 

Fordon never expected to write against the Catholic Church, but believes that people shouldn't be so quick to defend priests accused of abuse. Fordon joined Cynthia Canty on today's Stateside to discuss The Witness.

Oklahoma Dept of Corrections

James Francis Rapp, a former Roman Catholic priest, recently pleaded no contest to charges that he had sexual contact with students while he was a wrestling coach and a teacher at Lumen Christi High School in Jackson.
 

Rapp faces up to 20 years in prison. The trouble is, he’s already in prison.

Michigan Attorney General's office

A former Catholic priest has pleaded “no contest” to criminal sexual conduct charges in Michigan.

The charges stem back to the 1980’s when James Rapp worked at Lumen Christi High School in Jackson.

In 2013, two victims came forward with their allegations against Rapp, who was already serving time on similar charges in Oklahoma.

Eventually, more victims came forward.

Church pew with hymnal
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A priest is leaving a Battle Creek parish after some members of the southwestern Michigan diocese became angered to learn that he led a Minnesota archdiocese during a clergy sex abuse scandal.

Pastor John Fleckenstein wrote in a letter Thursday to members of St. Philip Catholic Church that Archbishop John Nienstedt decided to discontinue his work there "in light of the unintended discord that his presence was causing."

A brick church
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A child sex abuse scandal from Minnesota has made its way to Michigan – and the Battle Creek community isn’t happy.

Archbishop John Nienstedt, the former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, started working at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek last week.

Nienstedt volunteered to step in while the current priest undergoes treatment for epilepsy, according to the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

A brick church
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The former archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is coming to Battle Creek.

John Nienstedt resigned from the Twin Cities archdiocese last summer, as county prosecutors alleged the church had failed to protect children from clergy sex abuse during his tenure.

St. Philip Roman Catholic Church’s newsletter says Nienstedt once worked as a pastor in Royal Oak and Detroit.

The Diocese of Kalamazoo issued this written statement:

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