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A recent report outlined problems with the Catholic Church attempting to cover up cases of clergy sexually abusing minors in Michigan, resulting in an apology from the head of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.
On February 19, Bishop Walter A. Hurley posted a video on the diocese website, apologizing to any victims of clergy sex abuse. However, Hurley indicated that he is unaware of any allegations involving the 89 priests in that diocese.
“When and if we become aware of an allegation, the accused would be immediately placed on administrative leave,” the bishop said. “I urge anyone that has reason to believe abuse has occurred – please notify law enforcement so the appropriate action can be taken.”
The video appears to be in response to a stories published by MLive.com, which reported that prosecutors say the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw stonewalled a police investigation into Rev. Robert DeLand, Jr., who faces charges for sexually assaulting a teenager and two men in March.
DeLand was arrested in February 2018, but the MLive report says prosecutors claim the diocese delayed the investigation, failing to turn over necessary documents. Since then, the sex scandal has ballooned to involve 19 priests and one deacon, MLive reported.
Hurley took over as interim bishop of the diocese after the previous bishop, Joseph R. Cistone, died in October. The video came just two days before a four-day conference began in the Vatican meant to examine the church’s efforts to protect children from sexual predation by its own priests.
The conference is being held to address heightened attention to Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, as dioceses nationwide have been releasing lists of priests facing what the church considers credible accusations of sexual assault against minors and vulnerable adults. The lists began to come out several months after an August 2018 grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.
That report indicated that the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.
Former U.S. Cardinal Defrocked Over Abuse Allegations
Earlier this month, the Vatican issued a statement announcing that it was defrocking former U.S. cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who was once the archbishop of Washington, D.C., leading the diocese there.
The press release, issued on February 16, indicated that the Congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” The decision was affirmed on February 13 by the Ordinary Session of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following allegations that arose in September 2017 that he abused a male teenager in the 1970s. However, internal memos and letters have suggested that the Holy See knew about the allegations against him before he was elevated to cardinal in 2001. He led the Archdiocese of Washington until 2006.
It is one of many cases where victims and critics say the Roman Catholic Church acted to cover up allegations of sexual abuse by priests and high-ranking officials, often shuffling them from one diocese to another when allegations arose.
The spotlight on the issue has renewed some efforts to level sex abuse litigation against the Church. Last month, an attorney representing a number of victims announced that the Catholic Church had agreed to settle at least five sexual abuse lawsuits brought against a former priest in New Jersey.