Gay Priest Outed by Hookup With Teen, Diocese Stonewalls

News: Commentary
by Jay McNally  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 17, 2022   

Fr. Shaun Lowery: 'I sin boldly!'

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11/19/22: This article originally named Fr. Dennis Brown as an accused priest. We regret the error and have corrected the name to Fr. Dennis Gray.

As with many promiscuous homosexual priests in Michigan, it was only a matter of time before out-and-proud homosexual Fr. Shaun Lowery, 44, would eventually wind up being tangled up with law enforcement over a sex crime and, only owing to media notoriety, forced to resign his pastorate at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Brighton. 

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Fr. Shaun Lowery

Father Lowery's demise, which began 17 months ago, follows a familiar trajectory, which can now be revealed only owing to the findings of the Michigan attorney general's (AG) investigation into sex abuse in the Catholic Church. These findings, which include more than 350 pages of documents and hours of audio-recorded testimony, were recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Church Militant submitted a query Tuesday to the diocese of Lansing, headed by Bp. Earl Boyea, asking for a response to the information discovered in the investigative file. This reporter has also submitted numerous queries over the past year about Lowery's suspension, with no substantive response. As of Wednesday morning, when this report was being finalized, the diocese was still keeping secret all of the details of Lowery's double life of sexual addiction.

It was only Thursday, two days after Church Militant's media query, that the diocese released a response on its website acknowledging, for the first time in more than a year, that Lowery's removal involved a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy. 

The trajectory of the predictable disintegration of many known homosexuals who are ordained is well known and documented. The homosexual is admitted to a seminary where his sexual proclivities and addictions are known, tolerated and even encouraged. He is ordained, sometimes in a mostly gay religious order, then spins out years later in an ugly public sexual mess full of graphic details in the media and courts. Then diocesan and parish staffers and "professional Catholics" claim they had "no idea" what happened, or why, and they consider the bishops who paved the way for the scandal are great bishops nevertheless.

Enablers in High Places

The AG's findings in the Lowery investigation reveal the names of powerful, gay-friendly Michigan priests and bishops who guided Lowery throughout his tragic career and dates as to when they did it.

What may prove to be the end of Lowery's life as a parish pastor (recent history shows "Grindr priests" and their ilk, however, suffer few negative consequences after their double lives are revealed) began 17 months ago in March 2021, 17 days after the diocese learned Fr. Lowery had sex with a 16-year-old high school student in an anonymous hookup in late February 2021, arranged after two months of grooming on the Grindr app.

Father Lowery had sex with a 16-year-old student in an anonymous hookup in late February 2021.

The encounter went terribly wrong. Within an hour of engaging in sexual relations, the boy recognized Fr. Lowery as the priest who worked at his parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Ann Arbor. According to investigators with the Michigan AG's office, the boy "sent a message to Fr. Lowery along the lines of, 'That was fun, I enjoyed that,' and called him his name and then said, 'or should I say, Father Shaun.'"

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Lansing diocesan attorney Will Bloomfield's March 3, 2021 email to MI AG

The young man described the tryst and showed evidence of his Grindr texts and photos of Fr. Lowery's face and body to a classmate, who then contacted an adult, who assisted the classmate in making a formal complaint to the diocese of Lansing on March 3, 2021. The complaint was sent to the AG's office by diocesan General Counsel Will Bloomfield, with the following email:

Danielle,
As discussed, here is the complaint we were forwarded.

Also as discussed, we will not put Fr. Lowery on leave until you advise that we may do so.
Let me know if there’s any other way we can help.

Sincerely,
Will Bloomfield

The AG then assigned two investigators to the case, who interviewed several witnesses and two top officials of the Toledo-based religious order Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, of which Fr. Lowery was a member from 2003 until he became incardinated in the diocese of Lansing in 2016. At least a dozen other AG investigators were involved, including some who conducted forensic investigation of Fr. Lowery's iPhone.

The AG apparently gave permission to Bp. Earl Boyea to put Lowery on leave two weeks later. The diocese issued a short statement on March 20, 2021 indicating that Fr. Lowery was placed on ministerial leave pending an investigation by the AG. It failed to mention that the investigation involved possible criminal sex abuse.

The AG closed its investigation less than three months later with a statement by AG spokesperson Lynsey Mukomel in an email: "Let's be clear: no criminal charges is not equivalent to exoneration."

Secrecy, Secrecy

Diocesan spokesman David Kerr in an email to this reporter March 21, 2022, nine months after the AG ended its investigation, said that no details would be revealed until after the "obligatory canonical investigation as mandated by the Church's Code of Canon Law."

In May, Lowery resigned his pastorate, and the diocese issued an update for the first time revealing the existence of the canonical investigation, still with no details of Lowery's double life.

Nor did the diocese indicate that Lowery was apparently working full-time in Detroit at a non-profit organization, Crossroads. Indeed, when Kerr was sent the accompanying Crossroads images more than two weeks ago, he did not reply to the question whether it was permissible for priests to hold secular jobs.

When the AG investigators on the Lowery case interviewed him in his living room on March 17, 2021, Lowery defended his years-long sex life (at least that part of it involving the anonymous hookups) as "a couple times a month," arranged on apps like Grindr and Scruff, by claiming he "never did anything illegal" and never intended to have sex with anyone under 18.

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Fr. Lowery at his new job at Crossroads of Michigan

He described how he finds prospects for sex, how he nurtures relationships with them by sending pictures of his face as well as "explicit photos," which are invariably of his penis and exclude his face. He said he sent images and texts back and forth with the boy for about two months before they finally met for the tryst in February 2021.

He acknowledged he rarely knew the real names of his partners; he usually never asked, and they in return didn't ask.

The AG's forensic investigator who examined Lowery's phone reported that he was able to identify, or "parse," 164 Grindr buddies (contacts). He found no child pornography.

"Out of the 150,489 extracted images, I observed four that may be images of naked males less than 18 years of age," he wrote. "[T]hese four images are cached images. There is no indication these images were downloaded or saved by the suspect."

Cached images are not usable in court.

He also said he found “numerous videos of the suspect masturbating as well as other videos of unknown males having sex. I did not observe videos of obvious CSAM [Child Sexual Abuse Material]."

Enablers in the Seminary

Perhaps the most revealing document in the AG findings is the "Self-Assessment dated Aug. 8, 2003" that Lowery submitted to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales as he was applying to be admitted to the order. It confirms, once again, that a largely secret network exists of high Church officials who nurture known homosexuals all the way to ordination.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI

Lowery had already completed undergraduate studies at Detroit's Sacred Heart Seminary (SHS) (1998–2001), where he had a reputation as a promiscuous homosexual, according to a former seminarian. He left SHS and spent two years teaching, then reapplied to SHS to undergo studies to be ordained for Detroit, but was not accepted. The letter from the seminary does not explain why he was not readmitted. Lowery then applied to the Oblates, which accepted him, in 2003.

The Oblates are notable for being overwhelmingly gay-friendly and home to some outrageous pedophiles, some who were serial pedophiles and eventually imprisoned. These include Fr. James Rapp and Fr. Dennis Gray, about whom a full-length documentary film, Twist of Faith (2004), was made and is available on Netflix and Amazon.

Perhaps most notable about the Oblate officials is their firm denial of rampant homosexuality in their midst, especially Fr. William "Bill" Auth of St. Sebastian's Angels, whom I wrote about in 2000 for Catholic World Report.

Fr. Ken McKenna, provincial of the Toledo-Detroit province of the Oblates, was interviewed by the AG. He said the Oblates had 74 members when he entered the order, but today has 47 members, with an average age of 72.

Neither of the two Oblate officials,  Fr. McKenna nor Fr. Jack Lougran, responded to this reporter's requests to be interviewed.

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Fr. James Bilot

In his 12-page self-assessment, Lowery credits his vocation and eagerness to continue with studies leading to ordination to two of his spiritual directors, Fr. James Bilot and then-Msgr. John Quinn, now the retired bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota. Both priests have been high-profile promoters of homosexuality in the archdiocese of Detroit and played major roles in the seminary.

In a March 5, 2021 Vortex episode, Church Militant recounted the experience of a former seminarian who was directed by Fr. Bilot to have homosexual relationships with priests: "The vocation director at the time was Rev. James Bilot. At the initial interview, Fr. Bilot asked me, 'On a scale of 0 to 10, are you gay, or are you straight?' I answered: '10 out of 10, straight.'"

I have learned not to repress my sexual feelings.

Bishop Quinn is somewhat more discreet. As editor of the Michigan Catholic from 1990–95, when he served as director of education, I had several experiences in which he came down decidedly in favor of homosexual advocates. I wrote about one of these for Church Militant, in which he smashed the efforts of faithful Catholics in 1993 to fight against an aggressive pro-gay theology teacher at Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview. In an obvious slap at Detroit's pro-life community, Quinn named the openly pro-abortion, pro-homosexual teacher the archdiocesan "Teacher of the Year."

In his self-assessment, Lowery stated:

I was in spiritual direction all through college and beyond. My first year of spiritual direction was really an introduction to it. I did not know what I was looking for in a director, but found a great director in my second year of seminary in Fr. Jim Bilot. ... After a year with Fr. Bilot, I had to find a new director because of Fr. Bilot's new assignment. Fr. Bilot recommended his director, then-Msgr John Quinn. … John Quinn was my spiritual director from 1999 through present and has asked me to stay in touch with him. … I have a great deal of affection and love for Bishop Quinn. He has been a tremendous gift in my life, not because of his position but because of his willingness to be present in my life.

I 'Sin Boldly'

Finally, Lowery himself, before being admitted to the Oblates in 2003, declared his homosexuality, boasting that when he sins, he "sins boldly" — as at least one of his many anonymous sex partners, aged 16, discovered in Ann Arbor:

My time in college and thereafter has also made me grow in my own understanding of my sexuality and I am present to others. I see sexuality more now as a way I am created in the image of God. I have a drive to share love in order to bring life and love to others. I have learned to love myself more, though sometimes that is more difficult than others.

I have to do this because if I want to love others and love God, I have to be able to love myself for who I am with all of my faults and talents. God loves me unconditionally, so why can't I? Continuously growing in love and the unfolding of my called religious life has moved me to deeper love of myself as well. I have learned not to repress my sexual feelings. They are normal. They are a gift. I am not embarrassed of them. I am still growing in my relationship with God and myself, but I do know that this does not mean that I have to become a man lacking passion. I have within me a drive and a love that can move mountains if I let it and channel it into ministry and studies. This is not always an easy path to follow. There are challenges, temptations and falls. God has blessed me, though, with a gift of fidelity and patience toward my vocation and with myself. I take comfort in Francis de Sales' words when he reminds me constantly that "our victory does not lie in not feeling temptations, but in not consenting to them."

When I sin, as Martin Luther said, I "sin boldly." I celebrate God's mercy and perpetual help. I know that nothing I can do can ever separate God's love for me. I may stray from God, but God always welcomes me home.

The diocese of Lansing posted its first-ever acknowledgment Thursday that Fr. Lowery was involved in a sex abuse mess. The diocesan spokesman said the 17 months of absolute silence and secrecy about Lowery were broken owing to media attention.

"Our desire had been to issue an all-encompassing statement at the conclusion of the canonical process involving Father Lowery," said David Kerr in an email, "but, unfortunately, the prolonged nature of those proceedings meant that information relating to the case was emerging into the public domain in a piecemeal and, thus, potentially inaccurate fashion."

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