SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Michigan cleric's ordination to the priesthood is being called off over a sex abuse allegation.
Bishop Joseph Cistone of the Saginaw diocese sent an internal email Thursday announcing he is canceling the ordination of Deacon Jerome Green, pastoral administrator at St. Vincent de Paul parish. Green's faculties have been suspended, and he is being relieved of his duties at the parish.
"Deacon Green has been relieved of his duties as Pastoral Administrator of St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Shepherd; and his faculties to minister as a deacon have been suspended while the matter is pursued," the letter reads.
The letter refers to "some unresolved issues dealing with a time before his coming to the Diocese of Saginaw." Reliable inside sources say this refers to a sex abuse allegation from Detroit. Further details remain unknown.
Ordained to the diaconate less than a year ago, Green had been slated for priestly ordination on June 1, in spite of the fact that he had never graduated from seminary. In another unusual move, he was going to be immediately named pastor of two parishes — St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Reese and St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Vassar — an uncommon step for the newly ordained, who are often first assigned a more temporary role.
Church Militant reported March 19 that Green is allegedly in a gay relationship with Fr. James Bessert, Director of Liturgy and a powerful official in the diocese. Sources claim his relationship with Bessert explains the favoritism shown in Green's initial ordination and immediate pastoral assignments. Neither Bessert nor Green have publicly confirmed or denied the allegations.
The Saginaw diocese is currently under criminal investigation for potential sex abuse cover-up, after 71-year-old priest Fr. Robert DeLand was arrested in February on charges of sexual assault of a male minor. A total of three male accusers have since taken the stand to testify against DeLand.
Inside sources claim Cistone and others have been long aware of DeLand's sexual misconduct but has turned a blind eye. The criminal investigation led to raids on Cistone's home — where law enforcement seized his cell phone, laptop, ipad and other electronics — as well as on the cathedral rectory and chancery. Sources also confirm trash bags full of shredded documents were found during the chancery raid.
In April, the bishop announced the appointment of an independent delegate to handle all matters related to the investigation. Judge Michael Talbot, a Catholic who has chaired the Detroit archdiocese's sex abuse review board for 16 years, is to be the point of contact for law enforcement and media. As of this report, however, the Saginaw diocese has provided no contact information for Talbot anywhere on its website.
Church Militant sent a request to the diocesan communications department for contact information for Talbot, but received no response.
Talbot has assured the public he would report all allegations of sex abuse of minors immediately to law enforcement. Church Militant confirmed with the prosecutor's office, however, that it was unaware of any reports of the sex abuse complaint against Green. The age of the alleged victim has not been revealed.
Deacon Green never returned a request for comment, and Fr. Frederick Kawka, sacramental minister at St. Vincent de Paul, responded to Church Militant's media query by simply writing "Mind your own business!" As of press time, the Saginaw diocesan website still has the announcement of Green's June 1 ordination.