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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Fallout continues from a homosexual cover-up involving the archdiocese of Detroit, an alleged gay predator and a whistleblower priest.
The Detroit archdiocese announced the resignation of its director of music, Joe Balistreri, on Ash Wednesday — the same day Church Militant aired a video exposing Balistreri's homosexual lifestyle, contrary to his claims to the opposite.
"Joe Balistreri has separated from his positions as the archdiocesan director of music ministries and as director of music at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament," read the statement. "The separation was effective Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021."
The archdiocese refused to clarify whether Balistreri had been fired or had voluntarily resigned.
It was the latest in a months-long legal battle between the archdiocese and Fr. Michael Suhy, who last year reported allegations that Balistreri had been grooming and sexually harassing a young man at his parish.
Rather than investigate the allegations, the archdiocese circled the wagons around its longtime music director, punishing Suhy by removing him as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Plymouth.
A surprise visit by Aux. Bp. Gerard Battersby and Lory McGlinnen, director of Parish Care, took place on Nov. 17, where they informed stunned parishioners of their pastor's departure.
"Father Suhy has become overwhelmed with the responsibilities, burdens and challenges of administrating a large and complex parish like Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish," said Battersby, reading from a prepared statement.
"There are no restrictions on his priestly ministry," he clarified. "However, for the good of everyone, he will no longer live at this parish, nor will he be permitted to return to Our Lady of Good Counsel to celebrate Mass or sacraments or visit the school."
McGlinnen chimed in and warned parishioners not to speak to media, among other things.
Huy-Linh Dang, then a teacher at the parish school who was present virtually at the meeting, asked if Battersby was saying Suhy was "unfit" for priestly ministry.
"No one said Father is unfit to run this parish, so your words, not mine," Battersby answered defensively. "He has all his faculties, no priestly faculties have been withdrawn, he is a priest in good standing."
"So you're saying that he's not unfit but he's being removed, but we're not being made privy to the reasons why," Dang said.
"It just seems like it's a very unjust decision," he continued. "You said that the leadership team was very good at this parish, we're a well-running machine — but we're a well-running machine because of this pastor, who's led us through this incredible pandemic."
"I would like it known that he acted like a father to us through this pandemic," he noted. "It just doesn't make sense."
Suhy released his own bombshell three days later, exposing what he claimed to be a cover-up of homosexual predation.
"One year ago, I was copied on a letter written by the parents of a young man addressed to Abp. Allen Vigneron, notifying him that a prominent employee of the archdiocese of Detroit was engaging in the sexual harassment and grooming of their son," wrote Suhy in a Nov. 20 statement.
According to Suhy, Balistreri actively groomed the young man by telling him to reject Catholic teaching on homosexuality:
From the parents, I learned that their son was told by the archdiocesan employee the following: that he was a homosexual; that he was living in a long-term homosexual relationship; that the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality was wrong; that it was not a grave sin to engage in sodomy; and that his male lover knew that he was sleeping with other men and didn't have an issue with it. The archdiocesan employee offered advice and encouragement to the young man on how to be a sexually active homosexual.
"Every indication was that the young man was being targeted for indoctrination and seduction," Suhy wrote.
Disturbingly, Vigneron was reportedly aware of the employee's active gay relationship and supported it.
"Worst of all, perhaps, was the report that Abp. Allen H. Vigneron himself knew about his prominent subordinate's homosexual relationship — and that he was 'accepting' of it," Suhy added.
In addition to being director of music for the archdiocese for a decade, Balistreri was also Vigneron's organist at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
Vigneron serves as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and is in line to take the helm when the current president, L.A.'s Abp. Jose Gomez, retires.
Monsignor Michael Bugarin, delegate for clergy misconduct, is also implicated in the cover-up.
"According to the Delegate of the Archbishop, Msgr. G. Michael Bugarin, 'officials of the Curia appropriately handled the matter' of the reported sexual harassment," Suhy noted. "I strenuously beg to differ."
Bugarin is a controversial figure, the subject of a defamation lawsuit by Fr. Eduard Perrone, suspended in 2019 over rape allegations fabricated by Bugarin, with the help of investigator Detective Nancy LePage of the Macomb County Sheriff's Department, who also happens to be a member of Bugarin's parish.
Perrone was vindicated in a separate defamation lawsuit against LePage, forced to pay $125,000 in damages to Perrone. In spite of this and the fact that Perrone's own accuser has explicitly denied any rape charges, Vigneron has refused to reinstate Perrone to active ministry.
Vigneron is also being sued by Perrone for defamation and fraud.
Huy-Linh Dang was fired from his job at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish School on Feb. 22.
After Battersby's Nov. 17 visit, Dang followed up by sending further queries to the archdiocese about Suhy's temporary replacement, Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny — a Detroit stalwart with ties to an archbishop accused of covering up pedophilia.
Dang expressed frustration that his pastor, a faithful and orthodox priest, was being replaced with a monsignor with deep ties to Detroit's homosexual network. Dang received a response on Nov. 23 from archdiocesan spokesman Ned McGrath, who was dismissive of Suhy's allegations that he was sacked over a homosexual cover-up.
"[M]y statement does address the nonsensical claim by Fr. Suhy that he was removed because of some imagined ongoing archdiocesan 'conspiracy,'" said McGrath.
He went on to claim Suhy's removal had been months in the making.
"The talks aimed at getting Fr. Suhy to step aside voluntarily for his good and the good of the parish started — with him — this past spring," claims McGrath. "His intransigence ultimately triggered a canonical process for his removal."
"He was provided with some two dozen pages of documentation and clarification why he was being removed. In other words, he knows — and knows well — why it was necessary to take this step. That information, however, is conspicuously absent from Fr. Suhy's November 20th statement."
In addition to Dang's questions about Suhy, he also challenged the parish's use of a questionable Lectionary for Masses With Children that uses "inclusive" language, and asked that the school liturgy stop offering protestantized hymns. Dang also offered students authentic Catholic teaching on transgenderism, leading to a handful of complaints from parents.
An email from the principal, Melissa Hunt, announced his termination on Feb. 22.
"This letter is to inform you that Huy-Linh Dang will no longer serve as the Administrator of Evangelization and Discipleship for OLGC Parish School," she wrote. "I know that with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can and will continue to overcome any challenges that come our way."
Dang's farewell letter the next day slammed the archdiocese for its dishonesty and lack of transparency.
"To consistently hide information from people to make adult decisions is not an act of charity or provides clarity," Dang wrote. "It is to mimic the culture we currently live in, where truth is stamped out because of fear of backlash and cancel culture."
"This is not a free society, and it certainly is not proudly Catholic," he insisted.
As director of priestly mission in the Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life, Halfpenny offers spiritual support for all priests in the archdiocese. His history in Detroit goes back decades, serving as a priest under Cdl. Adam Maida, Vigneron's predecessor, and going on to be vice rector and dean of seminary formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
He has had a longtime friendship with another former rector of the seminary, Abp. John Nienstedt, the disgraced former head of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, forced to resign in 2015 after evidence revealing he protected a convicted homosexual predator.
Nienstedt's archdiocese has the distinction of being the first in U.S. history to be criminally prosecuted for sex abuse cover-up. Shortly after Nienstedt's resignation, the archdiocese settled its case with prosecutors and then declared bankruptcy.
Witness testimony and documentation shows the archbishop reportely protected Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, alleged to be his homosexual partner, who wound up serving five years in prison for crimes of sexual assault and possession of child pornography.
Nienstedt denies the allegations. "I never had any sort of relationship with Curtis Wehmeyer, other than one of archbishop to priest," he wrote in a 2019 email to Church Militant. "I had three meals with him over the course of three years. Two of these occasions concerned parochial matters, and one was social. The same (having meals with priests) could be said of many of the archdiocesan priests."
"Again, calling him my 'lover' is not only egregiously untrue, but an outright defamation of my character," he noted.
Multiple accusers also stepped forward to report Nienstedt himself as being a homosexual who propositioned seminarians when he was rector of Sacred Heart in the 1990s — with Vigneron serving as vice rector. Some accusers claimed if they rejected his advances, they were punished.
Asked in 2013 why a number of people claim he's homosexual, Nienstedt said, "I have no idea." In his follow-up email to Church Militant, Nienstedt offered another reason: "It is a matter of public record that they do not agree with the Church's teachings on homosexuality, and I have consistently preached, taught and lived what the Church teaches on this issue."
However, Church Militant confirmed with a diocesan source closely involved in the Nienstedt investigation that some of the archbishop's accusers took the same stance toward same-sex marriage as he did, calling into question Nienstedt's reasoning.
The archbishop has denied all allegations, claiming many are inaccurate or outright false.
Vigneron's own frienship with Nienstedt goes back 50 years, both of them attending seminary together, working as rector and vice rector, respectively, at Detroit's seminary and consecrated auxiliary bishops together in 1996.
Halfpenny and Nienstedt are also close, both attending seminary together and studying in Rome. In fact, both men have shared a house in North Lakeport, bought by Nienstedt in 1998.
In spite of the well-publicized allegations against Nienstedt, and the fact that he is forbidden to exercise public ministry in two dioceses, Abp. Vigneron welcomed him with open arms back to Detroit in 2018, even allowing him to take a prominent part in Sacred Heart Major Seminary's Presbyteral Mass that year.
His public participation in the liturgy contradicts a statement by the archdiocese: "This summer, Archbishop Nienstedt announced his intention to move back to southeast Michigan to live in a house he owns. At that time, Archbishop Vigneron asked Archbishop Nienstedt — and he agreed — to abstain from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit. That agreement remains in effect."
Church Militant learned our Feb. 17 video exposing Balistreri — which led to his stepping down that evening — was viewed multiple times by staff throughout the archdiocese. The announcement of his "separation," however, did not take place until two days later.
Church Militant also learned that Balistreri was in meetings with archdiocesan officials for hours on Thursday, accompanied by his attorney.
As Michael Voris noted in a Vortex, the timing as well as the terminology of Balistreri's "separation" from the archdiocese is curious; although he had violated the archdiocese's morals clause requiring all staff to abide by Church teaching in their public and private lives, the announcement did not say he was "terminated," nor did it say he "resigned."
"[T]hat is typical corporate-speak for covering up a payoff," said Voris. "The disgraced employee is too great a liability to keep on board so senior management decides he has to go."
"However, the employee knows something, usually dirt (and a lot of it), and the employer knows that," he continued. "So they can't out-and-out fire him because he threatens to sue and go to the media."
Likewise, if he just resigns, well, that gives him no leverage. So a whitewash term is used — "separated" (which means nothing) — but does allow a non-disclosure agreement to be entered into. The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is agreed to by both parties. The former employee gets paid off to keep his mouth shut and promises not to sue.
And the employer dodges public revelations of its dirty laundry. That's how the game is played.
It is unknown how much Balistreri received as part of his severance package, and what the terms of his likely non-disclosure agreement were. But if it is the case, as Balistreri claims, that he has been living with his homosexual partner for 15 years, coupled with his high-ranking and prominent role of archdiocesan director of music for a decade, while also being the organist for Abp. Vigneron's cathedral, there is little question he is intimately aware of the many dark secrets of the archdiocese and its homosexual undercurrent.
Contrast Balisteri's treatment to that of lesbian Terry Gonda, music director at St. John Fisher Parish in Auburn Hills, immediately fired over her civil marriage to her partner. The disparity was noted in a Vortex:
Why were they so quick to dump the lesbian for violating the morals clause of the employment contract but have apparently looked the other way with their director of music for the entire archdiocese?
Again, insiders suggest to Church Militant it's because what and who Balistreri is aware of, having been in the archdiocese in an official capacity for many years of his young life — where many clergy have had interpersonal relations with him.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Suhy's legal defense.
Father Suhy's full Nov. 20 statement is set forth below.