Browsing News Entries

Open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, Chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, on the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit

With the hope of healing for those who have been abused by members of the clergy – and in response to questions from the faithful – the Department of Communications shares an open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, Chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, on the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

To report sexual abuse by clergy or church representatives, go to protect.aod.org.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recent reporting on the scourge of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church provides a timely catalyst to review the practices and policies in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Questions and answers, such as: What happens here? How are complaints of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy processed in the Detroit archdiocese? And by whom? As chairman of the Archdiocesan Review Board, which considers all such complaints and then advises Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, I would like to share with you how we have handled cases here for many years. I also will describe our outreach efforts to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and our extensive and ongoing efforts to promote safe environments.

Prior to the June 2002 meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Dallas, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted, the Detroit archdiocese reconstituted its review board. (An earlier version of the review board was established in 1988, when the archdiocese became one of the first dioceses to implement a policy on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.) I accepted the role of chairman of the independent board formed in 2002, and continue in that same role today. My current fellow members include a retired prosecutor, a psychologist, a health care executive, a former superintendent of Catholic schools and an archdiocesan pastor.

In the spring of 2002, the archdiocese also signed voluntary agreements with the prosecutors from all six counties within its boundaries to share case files of priests accused of sexual misconduct in previous years. In some cases, those files involved complaints of abuse that occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. Four criminal prosecutions resulted from the archdiocese sharing its files.

Importantly, this agreement with prosecutors continues to this day. Since 2002, every complaint that comes in, regardless of its source or the date of the alleged activity, is reported to civil authorities. No complaints are held back, pre-screened or disregarded. The archdiocese fully cooperates with law enforcement.

Similarly, complaints are considered by the Review Board. That process usually includes an independent investigator whose findings are forwarded to the Review Board. We currently work with two investigators: a retired police detective and a retired prosecutor. If the Review Board finds a complaint credible, it sends notice to the archbishop, who will forward the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviews all cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. The archdiocese considers a complaint to be credible if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it appears to be or could possibly be true.

No priest or deacon with a credible complaint against him is allowed to continue in active ministry during the time his case is under review by the Church or civil authorities. Those priests who are restricted and/or removed from ministry are monitored by a retired parole officer to ensure compliance with the strict limitations on their public ministry.

If an allegation against a priest or deacon is found to be credible, his name is posted on the archdiocesan website at protect.aod.org. He may also receive a permanent penalty of living a life of prayer and penance or dismissal from the clerical state, also called laicization. In either case, he may no longer represent himself as a priest or deacon, can no longer wear clerical attire and may not exercise any form of church ministry.

The archdiocese has publicly posted the names of restricted and/or removed priests and deacons for more than 15 years. Current practice also includes notifying the parishes in which the clergy in question served, as well as local media.

Complaints come to the Detroit archdiocese by verbal report via the 24/7 toll-free victim assistance line, 866-343-8055, or in writing to vac@aod.org. There are no deadlines or time limits on those who wish to make a complaint; it does not matter if the abuse occurred five, 15 or more than 50 years ago. Every effort is made by the Victim Assistance Coordinator – a credentialed social worker – to assist with healing and counseling for those who have been abused. If requested and helpful, the archbishop or his priest-delegate will meet with the victim.

We recognize that the best approach to addressing abuse is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Since 2002, the archdiocese has implemented a number of safe environment programs, all designed to identify situations that could leave a child vulnerable to the methods of sexual offenders and to emphasize the critical steps that must be taken to prevent and report the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

The program for adults, called Protecting God’s Children, is mandatory for all clergy, church representatives, employees and volunteers – all those who work with children and vulnerable adults. There are also similar, age-appropriate, personal safety programs for grade school, middle school, high school and religious education students. They go by such names as Circle of Grace, Called to Serve, Called to Protect and Think First and Stay Safe.

Since 2002, more than 101,000 adults have been trained through these programs. In addition, each year we provide training for the 29,000 students in our Catholic K-12 schools and the 39,000 in Religious Education.

The archdiocese also regularly educates church and school personnel about mandatory reporting. In Michigan, professionals required to report their suspicions of child abuse or neglect to state authorities include clergy, school teachers, counselors and social workers.

Our highest priority is those who have suffered from clergy abuse. We recognize the deep trauma from their experiences, and we understand it may take a long time before an individual is ready to come forward. No matter how long it has been, we are here to listen and try to be of assistance.

Each meeting of the Review Board begins with a prayer first used in 2011 by the Archbishop of Dublin. I would like to conclude by sharing that prayer with you:

Lord,
We are so sorry 
for what some of us did to your children:
treated them so cruelly, 
especially in their hour of need.
We have left them with a lifelong suffering.
This was not your plan for them or us.
Please help us to help them.
Guide us, Lord.
Amen.

           
Respectfully,
Judge Michael J. Talbot (Ret.)
Chair, Archdiocesan Review Board


 


Reverend Walter Ptak

Reverend Walter Ptak appointed Administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish, Dearborn Heights, effective August 27, 2018.  This will be in addition to Father Ptak’s continuing responsibilities as Pastor of St. Sebastian Parish, Dearborn Heights.

Reverend Edwin Balazy

Reverend Edwin Balazy granted Senior Priest Status effective August 27, 2018.  Fr. Balazy has been serving as Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Dearborn Heights. 

Reverend David Bechill

Reverend David Bechill appointed Administrator of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, Lincoln Park, effective October 1, 2018.  Father Bechill is currently serving as Associate Pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, Lincoln Park.

Why Remain Catholic? (With So Much Scandal)

Friends, in light of the recent scandals, I know many people are wondering whether they should remain in the Catholic Church. And I totally get that; the outrage is warranted. But in this time of crisis, I beg you not to flee, but to fight—not violently, with the weapons of the world, but with the weapons of the Spirit. We need you.

¿Por Qué Seguir Siendo Católico? (A Pesar De Tanto Escándalo)

Amigos, a la luz de los recientes escándalos, sé que muchas personas se preguntan si deberían permanecer en la Iglesia Católica. Y lo entiendo totalmente; la indignación está justificada. Pero en este momento de crisis, te ruego que no huyas, sino que luches—no violentamente, con las armas del mundo, sino con las armas del Espíritu. Te necesitamos.

Q&A about the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Friends, many of you have asked for my thoughts on the McCarrick abuse crisis, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and the recent report from Archbishop Viganò. We're all devastated by the horrific suffering of these many victims, and we're all wondering what to do next. I shared some thoughts a couple weeks ago, in an article, but I thought it might be helpful to have a more candid conversation today, building on the USCCB's statement just released, which I wholly support. Please watch our discussion or read the transcript, and together let's pray for the victims and the entire Body of Christ.

Archbishop Vigneron's response to statement from Archbishop Viganò

The Communications Department of the Archdiocese of Detroit shares Archbishop Vigneron’s counsel "in the midst of this hour of difficulty” resulting from claims made by the former Vatican ambassador to the United States.  

“The statement of Archbishop Viganò, the former Vatican Ambassador to the United States, is another daunting challenge to our confidence in the reliability of the Church’s leadership, during a summer of devastating news regarding clergy sexual abuse and infidelity. In the midst of this hour of difficulty, I offer two words of counsel – one about truth, the other about hope. 

“About truth: The Lord assures us that 'the truth will set us free' (Jn 8:32). We have nothing to fear in facing squarely the allegations made by Archbishop Viganò. I join with the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Detroit in praying for the triumph of truth and transparency – and praying that it comes quickly. Whether the Archbishop’s claims are confirmed or proved to be unfounded, the truth which comes to light will show us the sure path to the purification and reform of the Church. 

“About hope: On ascending to the Father, Jesus pledged that he would be with us always, until the end of the age (cf. Mt 28:20). Christ has not abandoned us in this time of crisis. By his rising, he is Lord of all history. And in these trials, he seeks to restore the vitality of his Church. We must respond with abandonment to his designs, to identify the grace he offers us in this moment and to accept it willingly regardless of the cost. If we respond with hope, the Lord will take us to a new place from which we can go forth to unleash the Gospel with new power and new strength. 

“In the end, we are servants of Christ. We trust in him. He will strengthen us and transform our weakness into power to advance his Kingdom and the salvation of souls. Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.” 

To report sexual abuse by clergy or church representatives, go to protect.aod.org.

Reverend Bradley Forintos

Reverend Bradley Forintos appointed Associate Pastor of Our Lady on the River Parish, Marine City, effective August 20, 2018.  Father Forintos is currently serving as Associate Pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, Port Huron.

Archbishop Vigneron on Recent News Concerning Clergy Sexual Abuse

In response to a letter from Pope Francis concerning sexual abuse of children in the Church, Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron on Monday, August 20 issued a message to the faithful urging all to read and reflect on the Holy Father’s words.

  • Click here to read Archbishop’s message and the letter from Pope Francis

On August 13, Archbishop Vigneron released a letter to the faithful offering prayers for victims of clergy abuse and affirming the need for accountability among clergy. The letter was written in anticipation of the release of a grand jury report on clergy abuse in Pennsylvania and in light of revelations of misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

“My prayers today are with the victims of abuse at the hands of clergy worldwide, particularly those represented in the grand jury report in Pennsylvania. The allegations contained in that report, as well as recent allegations of sinful behavior involving former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – regardless of when and where they happened – are daunting tests of faith for you in the Church, her leadership and our ongoing efforts towards abuse prevention and response.”


The Archdiocese of Detroit places no deadlines or time limits on reporting the sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other personnel. Be it five, fifteen, or 50 years later, our diocese accepts and responds to all reports. To speak to the Victim Assistance Coordinator, please call (866) 343-8055 or email vac@aod.org.