Michigan AG gives update on clergy abuse investigation; archdiocese responds

The Michigan State Capitol building is pictured. On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Detroit responded to Attorney General Dana Nessel's update on the state on an investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Michigan's seven dioceses. 

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday updated the public about the state of her office’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Michigan’s seven dioceses.

During a press conference at the Frank Kelley Law Library in Lansing, Nessel addressed members of the media for the first time about the ongoing investigation, as well as two other investigations involving the Flint water crisis and the handling of sexual abuse at Michigan State University.

The investigation into the Church’s handling of abuse in Michigan began under Nessel’s predecessor, former Attorney General Bill Schuette. Nessel, who took office in January, pledged to continue the investigation and said more than 300 tips have come in through the state’s tipline for information about cases of abuse, (844) 324-3374, and webpage, michigan.gov/clergyabuse.

On Thursday afternoon, the Archdiocese of Detroit responded to several of the attorney general’s statements. The archdiocese’s full response can be found below:

"The Archdiocese of Detroit appreciates the Attorney General’s Office for providing an update today regarding its investigation. We also would like to add a few points of clarification.

  • Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not entered into any non-disclosure agreements, unless specifically requested by a survivor of abuse, as required by the Catholic Church in the United States. In addition, the archdiocese does not enforce any non-disclosure agreements signed prior to 2002. We encourage all abuse survivors to share their stories.
  • The Archdiocese of Detroit does not self-police. We encourage all victims to report abuse directly to law enforcement. When we learn of an allegation of sexual abuse of minors, we immediately notify law enforcement authorities, in accordance with the agreements we have had in place with them since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. We then follow law enforcement’s lead to step aside and assist, when requested, during any criminal investigation.
  • The Archdiocese of Detroit has not been asked by the Attorney General’s Office to stop its internal review process. These internal investigations are required under Church law, and their purpose is to restrict or remove from ministry anyone who has committed sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult. The Archdiocese of Detroit places no deadlines or time limits on those who wish to report the sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons and other personnel. Be it five, 15, or 50 years later, our diocese accepts and responds to all reports – and immediately shares them with law enforcement.
  • Clergy with credible accusations against them do not belong in ministry. Since the Attorney General’s investigation began, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not received notification from that office regarding credible accusations against any of our priests. Should we become aware of such a complaint, we will act immediately.
  • The State of Michigan’s mandated reporting laws have been in place for decades. Through the years, we have strongly supported expansions to the list, including the addition of clergy. The Archdiocese of Detroit regularly educates all mandated reporters of their duties to report sexual abuse or neglect of minors.
  • When the Archdiocese of Detroit became aware of the Attorney General’s request for parishes to publicize the state’s tip-line, we immediately offered to help our parishes facilitate the publication of that material.
  • The Archdiocese of Detroit looks forward to working with the Attorney General’s Office to clarify some of the broad generalizations made during today’s press conference.

"The Archdiocese of Detroit offers continued prayers and sorrow for all victim-survivors and their families. One sinful, criminal act, especially against God’s most vulnerable and trusting children, is unacceptable and one suffering soul too many. We remain committed to preventing sexual abuse against anyone - especially children and vulnerable adults."

Editor’s Note: For additional information about how the Archdiocese of Detroit works to prevent and respond to sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, please visit protect.aod.org.

Detroit Catholic recently published a series on how the Archdiocese of Detroit responds to, works to prevent, and seeks to help victims of sexual abuse.