Michigan

Report Details Decades of Alleged Clergy Sex Abuse in Michigan Diocese| National Catholic Register

The report names 44 priests ministering in Marquette who have been accused of abuse since the 1940s. 33 of the 44 priests named in the report are known or presumably deceased.

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday released a report detailing allegations of sexual abuse against priests in the Marquette Diocese dating back to the 1940s.

Nessel said the Oct. 27 document was the first of seven from her office on allegations of sex abuse against priests in each of Michigan’s Catholic dioceses.

“Since the beginning of my tenure, I have vowed to use my department’s resources to ensure that every sexual abuse and assault case is thoroughly investigated and that whenever we are able to seek justice, we do so relentlessly and aggressively do.” Nessel, a Democrat running for re-election, said in a video statement accompanying the report.

“In the end, we hope this report will give a voice to those who have suffered in silence for so long, and shed a light on those suspected criminals who have escaped punishment for their crimes by hiding in the shadows.”

The report names 44 priests ministering in Marquette who have been accused of abuse since the 1940s. 33 of the 44 priests named in the report are known or presumably deceased.

Of the 44, six are charged with sexually abusing adults aged 18 and over. Two of the 11 living priests have been criminally charged. One was convicted, the trial of the other is pending. None of the priests are on active duty.

The 149-page report does not constitute an investigation into the credibility of the allegations it contains. Rather, the report is a compilation of information gathered from a tip hotline set up by the attorney general’s office, victim surveys, police investigations, open-source media, by the diocese confiscated paper and electronic documents and reports of allegations disclosed by the diocese.

As the report states, “The allegations are summarized here, and their inclusion does not reflect a determination by the Department that the allegations are credible or otherwise substantiated.”

“The information is being released to the public as a tribute to the victims of these alleged crimes and as a public reckoning of the resources allocated to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute clergy abuse,” Nessel said in her Thursday announcement. She said her office hired and trained a full-time victim advocate to assist victims of the alleged abuse.

Marquette Bishop John F. Doerfler made a statement on the report before a scheduled news conference Thursday.

“Words fail when attempting to discuss something as sobering and disturbing as the report released today by the Michigan Attorney General’s office into its investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Marquette Diocese. However, something must be said and our work to eradicate this grave evil must continue,” he said.

“On behalf of the Church, I sincerely apologize to all who have been abused by clergy of the Catholic Church. They are and should be our priority. There is no excuse for what happened to you. It’s especially painful when your voice hasn’t been heard. Thank you to those who bravely stepped forward to shed light on this darkness that has caused so much damage.”

In the statement, the bishop went on to highlight the limitations of the attorney general’s report.

“The Attorney General’s report lists allegations without determining whether the allegations are credible or substantiated. However, you should know that there is no active ministry priest or deacon in the Diocese of Marquette with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. In fact, the last alleged incident known to the diocese of the sexual abuse of a minor by an active-duty priest occurred 25 years ago,” Bishop Doerfler said.

The bishop stressed that the diocese had determined that an allegation against one of the priests named in the report – Father Mark McQuesten, a senior priest who is still in active ministry – was not considered credible. He said the diocese conducted its investigation into the case in accordance with the norms for investigating allegations of clergy sex abuse established in the 2002 Dallas Charter of US Bishops.

US Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.  Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

US Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A sizeable majority of the allegations in Marquette contained in the report predate the 1980s. The last substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against an active-duty priest in Marquette was in 1997.

“The possible prosecution of many [of] these allegations are statute-barred by the statute of limitations or because the accused priest died,” Nessel said.

Nessel said the diocese has been working with the attorney general’s office to provide information and resources.

“The willingness of the diocese to provide information played a key role in the preparation of the report. The report was shared with the Diocese of Marquette before it was released to the public to ensure accuracy and completeness,” Nessel said.

The release of the Marquette report comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 US midterm elections, in which Nessel will face three challengers for her seat.

Nessel has made investigating abuse among Catholic clergy a focus of her tenure as Michigan Attorney General and has been accused on occasion of anti-Catholic bias. During her tenure, she also moved to close religious adoption agencies in the state, arguing that the adoption agencies’ policy of favoring heterosexual couples constituted illegal discrimination. Nessel has strongly supported Michigan’s Proposal 3, a move to codify abortion law that would “create a new individual right to reproductive freedom,” and has prompted fierce opposition from Catholics in the state.

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