Attorney general releases first of seven clergy abuse reports, on Marquette diocese

St. Peter's Cathedral is pictured in Marquette, Mich., in this 2009 photo. On Oct. 27, the Michigan Attorney General's Office released the first of seven expected reports on its investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Michigan's seven Catholic dioceses, starting with the Diocese of Marquette. (Bobak Ha'Eri, Wikimedia Commons | CC-BY-3.0)

Report finds majority of allegations against 44 Upper Peninsula priests over the past 72 years regard incidents in the 1960s and '70s

MARQUETTE — The Michigan Attorney General’s Office released the first of seven reports Oct. 27 related to its investigation of sexual abuse in Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses over the past 72 years, detailing allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Marquette.

Since 1950, the report states, allegations of sexual misconduct were made against 44 priests in the diocese, including 38 who were “employed or incardinated by the Marquette Diocese,” a release from the Attorney General’s office said.

This includes both substantiated and unsubstantiated allegations. An allegation’s inclusion in the report "does not reflect a determination by the Department that the allegations are credible or otherwise substantiated,” the report said.

According to the report, the majority of allegations against Marquette clergy date to the 1960s and 1970s, and there are no reports of abuse by clergy in active ministry alleged to have taken place in the 2000s or 2010s. Of the 44 priests accused, 32 are "known or presumed to be dead," the report states.

The report lists two convictions prior to the Attorney General's Office's investigation — of Fr. Terrence Healy in 1987 and Fr. Norbert LaCrosse in 1991 — and one conviction in conjunction with the investigation, of former priest Gary Jacobs, who was convicted this year of five counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual misconduct against four victims in the 1980s. Charges are pending against Fr. Roy Joseph for alleged misconduct with an adult, with the Attorney General's Office seeking to extradite him from India.

“As to the other allegations, in virtually all of the cases either the statute of limitations had run, or the priest had died prior to the start of the Department’s investigation," the Attorney General's report said. "Few of the allegations were examined by law enforcement officials during the time in which the statute of limitations would have allowed for a charge if warranted. Also, in the vast majority of the cases, the allegations were brought to diocesan officials only after the statute of limitations had run or after the priest had died.”

The report comes after the Michigan Attorney General’s office began a statewide investigation into claims of clergy sexual abuse in Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses in October 2018. All of Michigan’s dioceses have cooperated in the investigation.

“The Diocese of Marquette worked in partnership with the Department of Attorney General to pass along reports of allegations,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a press release Oct. 27. “Victims often reach out to their faith leaders to share stories of alleged abuse. The willingness of the Diocese to provide information was instrumental in the compilation of the report.”

The Attorney General’s Office announced plans to release individual reports on each of the dioceses — including the Archdiocese of Detroit — in the coming weeks and months. The Marquette report does not address the Archdiocese of Detroit.

In a statement, Marquette Bishop John F. Doerfler said "words fall short" of expressing the Upper Peninsula diocese's sorrow for "something as sobering and disturbing as the report released earlier today by the Office of the Michigan Attorney General concerning its investigation into clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Marquette."

Bishop Doerfler apologized to "anyone who has been abused by clergy in the Catholic Church," and renewed his promise "to do all that we can to prevent clergy sexual abuse, and to respond quickly and definitively if it should occur," as well as to remove from ministry "any priest or deacon against whom there is a substantiated allegation of abuse."

Bishop Doerfler noted one priest listed in the report, Fr. Mark McQuesten, a senior priest in active ministry with the Diocese of Marquette, was the subject of an allegation reported to the diocese in 2018, but "it is not a credible allegation."

"We used the services of an investigator with a background in law enforcement and many years of experience interviewing both victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes. At the conclusion of his investigation, it was his opinion that the allegation was not credible," Bishop Doerfler said. "Subsequently, the reports of the investigation were reviewed by the Independent Review Board, which is primarily comprised of lay persons. The Independent Review Board also advised that the allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor against Father McQuesten was not credible."

Bishop Doerfler highlighted the Marquette diocese's processes for keeping children and vulnerable adults safe, noting that it conducts training and background checks for employees and volunteers in churches, schools, and other Catholic institutions.

"At the end of September 2022, there were 1,678 priests, deacons, women religious, employees, volunteers, and seminarians approved to work in our parishes, missions, schools, cemeteries, Catholic Social Services, and more in the diocese," Bishop Doerfler said.

The bishop stressed that "no priest or deacon of the Diocese of Marquette with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is in active ministry. In fact, the last alleged incident known to the diocese of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest in active ministry was 25 years ago."

Bishop Doerfler pointed to the initiation of the diocese's Safe Environment program put in place after the U.S. bishops adopted its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People — also known as the Dallas Charter — in 2002 as an important tool in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe. He encouraged victims to report "any signs of possible clergy sexual abuse."

While the diocese has made important progress in the past 20 years, Bishop Doerfler said, it does not erase the hurt and trauma caused by abuse that has occurred in the past.

"Even though almost all of the abuse in our diocese occurred decades ago, the wounds run very deep, and many people are still suffering today," Bishop Doerfler said. "Let us ask the Lord to heal with his tender love all who have been harmed."

The Archdiocese of Detroit remains committed to fully cooperating with state officials as they continue their investigation. For more information about the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Detroit and how it approaches safety for children, youth, and vulnerable adults, please visit aod.org/charter to view our report released earlier this year.

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or [email protected].

Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org calling the toll-free, 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing [email protected].

There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.



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