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SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of Saginaw is now officially under investigation for possible cover-up of sex abuse.
In a press release issued Thursday, Saginaw prosecutor John McColgan, Jr. announced the establishment of "a special investigative team" to look into "allegations of abuse involving officials within the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw."
This comes a week after the local police department said their criminal probe involved multiple clergy, in addition to Fr. Robert DeLand, arrested February 26 for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old male and a 21-year-old male.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gaertner is quoted in Thursday's press release saying, "Since those charges were issued, police agencies have received a number of tips regarding alleged abuse that stretch from the 1970s to present day."
Gaertner continued, "We are going to follow the evidence and go where it leads us."
The prosecutor's office is encouraging people to come forward, even if it's anonymous. "We want to hear from you; your tip is important," said Gaertner.
Although the Saginaw diocese initially claimed, "To the best of our knowledge, Father DeLand has not been subject to disciplinary action or accusations of priestly misconduct," it has since backtracked.
In a press release issued Thursday morning, the diocese now claims — after conducting "a further, in-depth study of Father DeLand's files" — that it has found several claims against DeLand, including a 1992 letter written by the priest to his bishop denying rumors "damaging" to DeLand's reputation.
DeLand was also investigated for suspected child abuse in 2005. According to the press release, a diocesan review board cleared him of any wrondgoing.
Reliable inside sources have told Church Militant that Bp. Joseph Cistone has been long aware of DeLand's sexual activities but has done nothing to stop him, allowing him to remain in positions of power, including as judicial vicar, a judge on the marriage tribunal, and a member on the board of priest personnel. Although the diocesan directory was updated on February 27 — one day after DeLand's arrest — DeLand's name remains on the directory in these roles. The diocese did not respond to queries asking why his name remained on the directory in these positions.*
Cistone himself was implicated in sex abuse cover-up when he was a chancery official in Philadelphia, including silencing a nun who tried to report priestly abuse, recommending a known sex abuser to be Cdl. Anthony Bevilacqua's speechwriter, and agreeing to keep multiple sex-abusing priests at their parish assignments, including one known for sadistic behavior, including whipping and pricking boys with pins until they bled.
People with information on abuse in Saginaw Township are being encouraged to call Det. Scott Jackson at (989) 791-7226, while those with tips on abuse in Tittabawassee Township are asked to call Detective Brian Berg at (989) 695- 9623. Information on other areas can call Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Chris Siegert at (989) 495-5555.
Tips can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*A revised version of the diocesan directory was published to the Saginaw diocese's website after this report was published, with DeLand's name still listed in his roles and an accompanying parenthetical that states "administrative leave." Although the directory was not published to the site until late Thursday or Friday, it includes a notation claiming it was revised on Wednesday.