Msgr. Bugarin’s Ignorance Damaged Fr. Perrone’s Reputation

News: Commentary
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  July 11, 2019   

Contrary to Pope's recent guidelines, he publicizes allegations

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The reputation of Detroit pastor Fr. Eduard Perrone is being severely damaged by the archdiocese of Detroit because it ignores the Pope's recent guidelines asking that names of clergy accused of misconduct be withheld until allegations are investigated.

Questioned by Assumption Grotto parishioners on Sunday about the highly publicized allegations against their pastor, Fr. Perrone, Detroit's point man for clergy misconduct, Msgr. Michael Bugarin, kept bringing up "the process."

Asked why "the process" didn't include the Pope's recent request that names of accused clerics not be published prior to reaching a "definitive condemnation," Bugarin claimed to be ignorant of the point published in February by Pope Francis.

Many Catholics find it hard to believe that Bugarin, who is Detroit's delegate for matters of clergy misconduct, could be ignorant of this point issued by Pope Francis through the Holy See Press Office on Feb. 21. The document containing this guideline was published on the first day of Rome's highly publicized sex summit and was specifically directed at how dioceses should handle clerics accused of sexual misconduct.

Point 14 of the Pope's reflections state:

The right to defense: the principle of natural and canon law of presumption of innocence must also be safeguarded until the guilt of the accused is proven. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the lists of the accused being published, even by the dioceses, before the preliminary investigation and the definitive condemnation.

Before the allegation against Perrone came to any definitive condemnation, Detroit had already done the following:

  • Read the allegation against Perrone from the ambo to his parishioners gathered for Sunday Mass
  • Issued a written statement concerning the allegation against Perrone
  • Added Perrone's name on Sunday to its list of credibly accused priests

The claim of ignorance is also dumbfounding for many as Bugarin is a canon lawyer as noted by the initials "J.C.L." after his name.

In 2004, the Canon Law Society of America discussed substantially the same point made by Pope Francis in his February document. That year it published the following commentary in its practitioners' text:

In undertaking the preliminary investigation, a diocese would also violate the principle of confidentiality if it made a public announcement naming a priest and saying that he has been accused of sexual misconduct or if it issued a public statement about the findings issued by the diocesan Review Board … which are of their nature preliminary and canonically inconclusive.

Such violations of confidentiality by a diocese irreparably damage the reputation of the accused and create a virtually insurmountable obstacle to the appropriate exercise of his ministry.

[It] is difficult to see how his name could be restored adequately after the damage to his reputation was done. It is also possible that a priest might have a civil cause of action against a diocese for making libelous comments about him.

Watch the panel discuss the harm Detroit caused to the good name of its priest in The Download—Part of 'The Process.'


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