DETROIT – Michigan officers of justice announced the submission of sexual abuse charges Friday against five former Catholic priests as part of an attorney general investigation into abuse clergy going back decades.
Attorney-General Dana Nessel said the priests served in the dioceses of Detroit, Lansing, and Kalamazoo, and that they have been charged with several counts of criminal sexual conduct. Four of them were arrested this week in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan, and the fifth is waiting for extradition from India.
A sixth priest faces an administrative complaint and has his coaching license suspended by the state, the officials said.
Almost all of the costs, which involve victims who were as young as 5 years old when they were abused, came out to about 450 calls to a tip line and were confirmed by files seized from the dioceses in the last autumn, and interviews with multiple victims, Nessel said. She added that the cases are only the “tip of the iceberg,” as researchers have only gone through a maximum of 10% of the information they have obtained. They also found many cases in which they could not bring charges because the statutes of limitation had expired, the priests had died, or the victims would not come.
“We hold people accountable — in this case a number of priests who preyed on young children and vulnerable adults,” Nessel said at a press conference. “Unfortunately, they were hiding in plain sight … and take advantage of their position of faith and authority.”
Those charged were Timothy Crowley, 69, of Tempe, Arizona; Neil Kalina, 63, of Littlerock, California; Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, of Lantana, Florida; Patrick Casey, 55, of Bellaire, Michigan; and Jacob Vellian, 84, of Kerala, India. It was not immediately clear if they have lawyers.
DeLorenzo was charged Thursday with three counts each of first – and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. DeLorenzo, who served a number of Michigan churches, admitted when he resigned from a Flint-area parish in 2002 that he sexual abuse of a child. He was not charged at the moment, but the Diocese of Lansing recently said a total of eight people had accused him of sexual abuse and that he is defrocked.
Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea issued a statement welcoming the actions of the prosecutor, to say this way “the truth can come out and justice can be served.”
“Any priest who is guilty of reprehensible acts against children has serious damages for the victims,” Boyea said. “He betrays the priesthood and the whole Church. I pray that Christ brings healing to all involved.”
U.S. bishops enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002. However, Nessel said that they read more recent internal communication between the leaders of the church in which they talk about the transfer of abusive priests, in contrast to the arrest of them. She said the documents she has reviewed, a summary of the discussions about the pay of the victims, the families, so that they do not come forward.
“I want to make sure that we are taking dangerous predators off the street,” she said. “That is my Number 1 goal — and not only to justify.”
An earlier version of this story was corrected to indicate that Vincent DeLorenzo is charged with three counts each of first – and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, not six counts of each charge.
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