LANSING, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Five former Catholic priests from Michigan have been charged on multiple counts of rape and assault of minors and adults.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made the announcement at a press conference Friday morning, detailing the names and allegations against each priest, arrested in the past 30 hours in various parts of the country, but all formerly assigned in Michigan dioceses. A total of 21 charges of criminal sexual conduct have been filed against the men, with four arrests and another pending extradition, as the fifth priest lives in India.
Father Jacob Vellian, former priest from the Lansing diocese, is being charged with rape of a victim under the age of 16, and continuing his assaults when the victim became an adult. Vellian, 84 years old, is also facing complaints involving sex abuse of nuns in India.
Nessel clarified that they have not yet arrested him, but "we've located him and we'll be making efforts to extradite him."
Two Detroit priests have been arrested.
Father Neil Kalina, formerly of St. Kieran Church in Shelby Township, was arrested on four counts of criminal sexual conduct involving the same victim, who was assaulted at the age of 13, and again between the ages of 13–15. Kalina had gotten in trouble with the law in 1985, at the age of 30, arrested for supplying minors with cocaine, marijuana and alcohol in his rectory.
Kalina was living in California and working as a youth counselor for an initiative called Operation High Hopes. A fundraising page set up by Kalina describes his work:
My name is Father Neil and at Operation High Hopes Christian Outreach Academy we reach out to those who are desperate and in need. We feed the poor and the homeless, and set free those who are lost & searching in their bondage of addictions. ...
We are helping Adolescent & Young Adults Ages 11-30
WE ARE SERVICING
-At Risk Youth
Another Detroit priest, Fr. Patrick Casey, 53, was arrested in Oak Park, Michigan, for a charge of performing oral sex on the victim during confession, while acting as the victim's spiritual counselor. He had formerly been administrator of Divine Savior Parish and pastor of St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish and St. Damian Parish in Westland.
A 2012 article in the Detroit Catholic — a news service run by the archdiocese of Detroit — gave a glowing review of Fr. Casey's work at St. Theodore.
"To look at the 50 years of this parish is exactly like looking at any family," Casey said at the time. "From birth to now, with the waves of baptisms and First Communions and weddings and funerals, this really is a living family, and steadfast."
Casey was placed on a leave of absence in 2015 without explanation from the Detroit archdiocese.
Two Lansing priests were also among those arrested.
Father Timothy Michael Crowley was charged with eight counts of criminal sexual conduct, including raping a child under the age of 16 as well as raping another victim older than 16. He was formerly assigned to St. Thomas in Ann Arbor. The 69-year-old former cleric was arrested in Tempe, Arizona.
Father Vincent DeLorenzo was arrested and charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct. The Lansing diocese said eight people have come forward accusing him of abuse and that he's in the process of being laicized. Formerly assigned to Holy Redeemer in Burton, DeLorenzo resigned in 2002 after an allegation of sex abuse of a minor. Now 80 years old, he was arrested in Marion County, Florida Thursday.
Nessel also announced the suspension of a counseling license for Fr. Lawrence Ventline of Detroit, formerly assigned to Sacred Heart in Roseville, accused of sexual assault of an adult. As recently as two weeks ago, Ventline had been working as a clinical psychologist and was actively taking on children as clients. He is also author of a book titled Securing Serenity in Troubling Times.
Ventline's license has since been summarily suspended, and the attorney general's office has filed a complaint to revoke his license permanently.
Ventline was featured on CBS Detroit in 2012 as part of the Inclusive Communities Uniting project, an initiative meant to bring different communities together, commenting at the time that his goal was to "connect, to build trust, (there is) so much mistrust, distrust ... ."
Ventline once signed an affidavit in 2015 during the investigation of Abp. John Nienstedt, claiming he saw the former head of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in a gay bar in Windsor, Ontario.
"I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap," Ventline wrote. "He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him."
Nienstedt denied the claims.
"We are committed to the facts and we will follow them wherever they take us," Nessel said. She clarified that nearly all of the charges came as a result of calls to their abuse tip line — more than 450 so far — and "later corroborated by files seized from dioceses last fall."
"This is only the tip of the iceberg," the attorney general clarified. "We anticipate many more charges and arrests as we continue to move forward with this work."
Michigan Attorney General Abuse Tip Line: (844) 324-3374
Send tip by email: firstname.lastname@example.org