Michigan Diocese’s Dark Secrets

News: US News
by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 10, 2024   

Clergy sex abuse report released

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GAYLORD, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Michigan's attorney general has released a report on sexual abuse in the diocese of Gaylord.

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Attorney General Dana Nessel

Issued on Monday, this investigation, which comes as the second in a series probing Michigan's Catholic dioceses, sheds light on the actions of 26 priests and two deacons. 

"The Gaylord diocese report is a compilation of the information obtained from my department tip line, victim interviews, police investigations, open source media, paper documents seized from the diocese, and electronic documents found on diocesan computers as well as the reports of allegations disclosed by the diocese," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told reporters Monday.

Investigation and Results

The investigation's scope spanned four years and involved an examination of 220 boxes of physical documents and over 3.5 million electronic files. 

It highlights a pattern of abuse, with 85% of the alleged incidents occurring before the year 2000. The diocese had already deemed nine out of the 28 accusations as credible in its internal reviews. 

There has been a lack of criminal charges.

But there has been a lack of criminal charges owing to factors such as insufficient evidence, the historical nature of the cases and, in some instances, the death of the accused. 

Most victims were minors at the time of the alleged abuse, though 12 reported incidents occurred after they had reached adulthood. 

Gaylord Diocese Responds

According to the diocese's website, since the investigation began, "the Diocese of Gaylord has turned over all requested documents and immediately reported any new allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct involving clergy to the Attorney General's Office."


 

The diocese's current bishop, Jeffrey Walsh, addressed the report in a press conference Monday. He expressed "deep sorrow and shame" as the diocese's bishop, especially to the victims and their families. 

Walsh explained the Church continues on a universal, national and local level to improve its safe-environment protocol. 

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Bp. Jeffrey J. Walsh

In a separate video message Tuesday to the faithful, Walsh stated, "From the beginning of the state's investigation in 2018, we have and will continue to fully cooperate with the attorney general's office."

"As difficult as the attorney general's report is to read, it is important for us as a Church to acknowledge this painful part of our history," he added. 

Walsh assured the faithful there are currently no clergy in active ministry with substantial claims of sex abuse against minors against them. 

He explained that, among the accused, 16 have passed away, while three, who faced accusations related to adult relationships, do remain active in ministry. 

"While none of these allegations resulted in criminal charges, nevertheless, I plan to meet with the Diocesan Review Board this month to discuss the particulars of the report and to determine any further actions," Walsh stated. 

Survivors Network Weighs In

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) commended Attorney General Nessel's thorough investigation, highlighting it as a model for the nation. 

We can never again trust the church.

In a press release, the group stated, "We are incredibly grateful to AG Nessel, the Michigan Department of Attorney General (AG), in partnership with the Michigan State Police (MSP), who launched an investigation in September 2018."

"Kudos to AG Nessel," the statement concluded. "Her investigation of Catholic sexual abuse in Michigan has been one of the most effective investigations in the country."

Mike McDonnell, SNAP's executive director, emphasized the necessity for survivors to come forward, pointing to the systemic cover-ups within religious institutions. 

"We have discovered from the numerous, secular probes conducted on religious institutions throughout the world that we can never again trust the church for what they have already proven to us once," he asserted. 

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