According to the attorney general of the state of Michigan, that office is investigating alleged sex abuse and cover-ups involving Roman Catholic clergy dating to as far back as 1950. A statement released by the attorney general’s office indicated that all seven Roman Catholic dioceses and Roman Catholic religious order priests in the state are under the microscope. The announcement came as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request made by WOOD TV 8, NBC’s Western Michigan affiliate.
The investigation, headed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette -- who is running as a Republican gubernatorial candidate -- came after a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report on August 14 that estimated that more than 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children, mostly adolescent boys, for decades dating back to the 1940s. The grand jury accused bishops and diocesan leaders of systematic coverups of the criminal acts. Also, the report did not depict Cardinal Archbishop Donald Wuerl in a positive light, alleging that as bishop of Pittsburgh, he participated in the cover-up of sexual abuse.
Six other states: New Jersey, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, New Mexico, and Missouri, are also looking into claims of a abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy. All seven of Michigan’s Roman Catholic dioceses – Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, and Marquette – have issued statements welcoming the investigation.
Cardinal Wuerl denied the allegations but remains under scrutiny. More than 100,000 people have signed a change.org petition demanding Pope Francis remove him. Amid swirling opposition and rumors, Wuerl went to Rome to confer with Pope Francis, reportedly to discuss his resignation.
The Catholic Church has been described as experiencing one of one of the worst crises in its history. This ensued after retired Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, testified in August in an unprecedented letter that more than 30 high-ranking churchmen, including Pope Francis, covered up for sex abuser and now-retired Cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and that priests and bishops were promoted because they held views sympathetic to homosexuals. Vigano called for the pope’s resignation.
Vigano’s letter exposed significant divisions between Catholic bishops and laity over the handling of sex abuse claims, as well as proposed solutions to clerical sex abuse.
The general consensus among Catholics faithful to Church teaching is that an investigation involving the laity into Archbishop Vigano’s allegations is essential and that homosexuality is at the root of the crisis.
Pope Francis, on the other hand, in four sermons over the last several weeks, appeared to characterize the exposing of abuse in the Church as an act of the devil, whom he referred to as “the great accuser.”
All seven of Michigan’s dioceses – Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, and Marquette – have issued statements welcoming the attorney general’s investigation.
On September 11, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea announced that an outside group of lay professionals will review his diocese’s handling of past sexual abuse cases. Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids said he hoped that the attorney general will “help to restore the trust of Catholics throughout our 11 counties.” Walkowiak released a letter calling for an investigation of Archbishop Vigano’s accusations. In June, Archbishop Henry Vigneron of Detroit urged Michiganders to offer testimony if they believe they were sexually abused by Monsignor Arthur Karey, who died in 1993. This was in reference to allegations the archdiocese received last year of alleged abuse committed by Karey against a girl decades ago.
Accusations of abuse continue to afflict the Roman Catholic Church in Michigan. In February, the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Saginaw, who sat on the board of an anti-child abuse organization, was arrested and accused of the sexual assault of a teenage boy. He is facing a year in jail, following a plea deal. Then in March, Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone’s house and offices were raided by police, who claim that he and diocesan officials are not cooperating with a a sex abuse investigation.
The Archdiocese of Detroit has spent almost $4.5 million in settlements and counseling-related expenses related to victims of sexual abuse by clergy. A little more than $1 million was paid before 2004. The Diocese of Grand Rapids gave more than $1 million to sex abuse survivors during the first years of the 2000s. Amounts paid by other Michigan dioceses, if any, are not readily available.
Attorney General Bill Schuette has been endorsed by Michigan Right to Life and is facing pro-abortion Democrat Gretchen Whitmer in the current gubernatorial race. Polls show that Whitmer has a comfortable 10-point lead in the race.
Schuette’s office is asking any victim of abuse or anyone with knowledge of abuse to visit www.Michigan.gov/CI or by call (844) 324-3374 Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. All contact will be confidential.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.