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Church Abuse Probes in Detroit

May 9, 2002

The Wayne County prosecutor said Thursday that his office was opening investigations into 16 priests suspected of sexual misconduct involving children.

The Archdiocese of Detroit last week gave prosecutor Mike Duggan's office files containing allegations by 50 people against 37 priests.

Duggan said the statute of limitations was expected to be an obstacle in most of the cases. The cases go as far back as 1943, and all but two involved incidents that took place at least 10 years ago.

"It has been horrifying to me to read through these files and see priests that I know, to see kids I knew growing up, to see families I know today," Duggan said.

At least 15 Roman Catholic priests in Michigan — including six in the Detroit archdiocese — have been removed, suspended or have left their duties since Jan. 1 amid sexual abuse allegations. At least eight of the cases involved a minor.

In addition to the 37 priests identified in archdiocese files, three other priests have been named by people who directly called the prosecutor's office to make accusations.

Duggan said he informed the archdiocese earlier Thursday of his intention to open the investigations.

Officials with the archdiocese said they were grateful the process was moving forward and plan to continue cooperating with investigators.

"Our efforts ... are to prevent that from happening again," Monsignor Walter Hurley said. "Can it happen again? I suppose that's a possibility as long as you have people around who have psychological disorders and who are sinful and criminal people."

The fallout stems from a case in Boston, where documents revealed church officials had long ignored complaints against a now-defrocked priest. Dozens of priests nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign.

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