If words mean anything at all there should be some dramatic changes in the look and feel of the Catholic Church in Michigan following the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) annual meeting last week.
That's the assurance we got from Detroit's Abp. Allen Vigneron, who, according to the Detroit Free Press' long-time religion reporter Niraj Warikoo, said the following in a statement (emphasis added):
As metropolitan archbishop of the Province of Michigan — the seven Catholic dioceses in the state — I am committed to implementing a process rooted in transparency and accountability for all. The faithful deserve nothing less. Most gratifying to me is the call to include lay people in this important work. That is absolutely essential.
As a journalist who has been writing about corruption and homosexuality in the archdiocese of Detroit for decades, those three sentence are remarkable coming from Abp. Vigneron, since "transparency and accountability" are so absolutely contrary to who he is and much of what he has done as a bishop and vice rector of Sacred Heart Seminary (1988–1991).
If he means what he says and implements any of it, he will radically change his DNA, to quote one of his favorite phrases used to describe his long-term fund-raising effort in Detroit, "Unleash the Gospel."
On just about every kind of news related to homosexuality in the priesthood, or as Sacred Heart Professor Janet Smith has been clarifying in her writings about this matter post-McCarrick, "men having sex with men," Abp. Vigneron has been as secretive and deceitful as many of his peers and predecessors.
For example, as of today, he has not issued even one public syllable about his de facto approval of the dissident group Dignity/Detroit, which has operated without interruption for four decades in his archdiocese.
However, there is baby step in the way of transparency regarding some of the most notorious homosexual priests who are off the rails, which I noticed only this morning. For the first time in at least four years the Detroit archdiocese's website has finally listed Fr. Peter Petroske in the clergy directory, even though he was incardinated into the archdiocese in 1994. He is listed as being "temporarily removed from ministry."
Father Petroske's story is among the most ridiculous coming out of the Detroit chancery in decades. It would be funny if it were not so tragic for the thousands of families he has led astray.
He was my pastor at St. Pius Church in Southgate for a full decade and seemed to make no effort whatsoever to hide his flagrant homosexual behavior and accompanying legendary raging alcoholism and angry outbursts.
He achieved international notoriety in 2012 when the BBC and multiple other news outlets reported about his arrest "for DUI while naked." It was only his arrest that forced Abp. Vigneron to restrict Fr. Petroske's lifestyle as a pastor.
Likewise for the first time in years, the notorious Fr. Lawrence Ventline is listed in the clergy directory as also "temporarily removed from ministry." Until the state attorney general on May 24 named Ventline as a fraud in his psychological counseling business, Ventline was listed under "Clergy and Consecrated Life," giving no hint that he had been suspended since 2016 from all priestly duties or had been accused of raping an 11-year-old altar boy.
On the matter of those two awful priests, Abp. Vigneron has shown some effort at transparency and he is to be commended for that. The archbishop also outdid himself in his statement by noting that the bishops at their meeting also voted to restrict the ministry of retired bishops accused of sexual abuse or negligence.
We will begin work immediately in the Archdiocese of Detroit to finalize and begin implementing these procedures. … As this process unfolds, I want to emphasize to the priests and people of southeast Michigan that they do not have to wait to bring forward an allegation against any bishop, priest, deacon or Church leader.
Since there is no mention of any statute of limitations, these are some Michigan bishops who certainly qualify for restricted ministry for their past negligence. For the purposes of this article, negligence by a bishop means the bishop did not remove a known pedophile or pederast from ministry and report him to police, and/or allowed sexual predators like McCarrick have their way with younger priests.
Cardinal Adam Maida is obviously the first and most important bishop to be restricted in Michigan, as he went to extraordinary lengths to keep numerous known pedophiles in ministry, especially Fr. Gerald Shirilla, removed from ministry in 1993 for multiple allegations of sexual abuse of boys and men, but then secretly assigned nine years later to a parish in Alpena.
The Shirilla episode is significant for me because it's among several situations in 1993 that led to the realization that there really are literally no priests in the Detroit chancery — including current bishops Earl Boyea, Leonard Blair, Francis Reiss, Thomas Gumbleton, Dale Melczek — who were opposed to any of the "priests having sex with priests," pederasty, pedophilia, etc. that went on with their full knowledge and therefore consent, since they traveled ever upward on the hierarchical ladder.
Bishop Walter Hurley must be restricted immediately if Abp. Vigneron is even remotely serious about going after negligent bishops. Bishop Hurley is an uncommonly skillful administrator and managed to keep many homosexual predators in action while he was moderator of the curia (chief of staff) in the Detroit archdiocese from 1986–1990 and while he was the delegate for clergy misconduct from 1988–1995 and again from 2002–2005. A book needs to be written about the pedophile priests protected by Maida and Hurley.
And while we are at it, how about Abp. Vigneron getting the paperwork going to immediately restrict from ministry these Michigan bishops whose negligence regarding homosexual predators is now well known, mostly thanks to Church Militant and other web sites?
Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing issued a remarkable statement to well-known international Professional Catholic Ralph Martin last summer when the two met in Boyea's office with a whistleblower who complained about two physically sexually abusive priests who were subsequently almost immediately removed from ministry, Fr. Patrick Egan and Fr. Mark Inglot. Church Militant has reported extensively on both of these priests.
Noteworthy is the exchange reported between Martin and Bp. Boyea, detailed in a public letter issued by the whistleblower. Ralph Martin did not respond to a request to discuss this letter.
The context of the conversation was the known promiscuous behavior of Fr. Inglot among priests, which led to the wonderment as to why Boyea, like most other bishops in the United States and especially in Michigan, stood by as one after another young priest was assigned to work in Inglot's parish.
When I met with you on Sept 17, 2018, you were asked by Ralph Martin as to why you have not alerted the public to Inglot's predatory behavior, you said it is because you "did not want to offend the older gay priests in the diocese."
Bishop Steven Raica of Gaylord is a poster boy for bad bishopry and probably will be elevated to greater prominence under Bishop of Rome Francis, but in a sane world would be removed immediately. However, Abp. Vigneron can get the paperwork going now to formally restrict his ministry when he retires in seven years.
In addition to trying to destroy the priesthood of a wonderful 33-year-old priest for reporting that a former priest and known pedophile was working at his local parish, Bp. Raica admitted on TV that he bungled his handling of the predator priest.
Prudence suggests that faithful Catholics should perhaps give Abp. Vigneron the benefit of any doubt that he is actually committed to "transparency and accountability." If Cdl. Maida and Bp. Hurley are not restricted soon, we'll know for sure.
Then there's the question whether Vigneron has the courage to look in a mirror and ask if he is not the most negligent Catholic of any rank in the state owing to his enablement and encouragement of the group Dignity/Detroit.