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File On Priest Kept A Secret

Jul 2, 2002 | Detroit Free Press

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan apologized Monday for his office's role in concealing the record of a priest removed from parish work in Livonia on Sunday -- 15 years after police first heard an accusation that he had sexually abused a teenager.

I've been the most critical of the archdiocese for not sharing information with law enforcement, so it's pretty embarrassing that law enforcement hadn't shared this information with the archdiocese," Duggan said Monday.

In 1987, instead of taking legal action against the Rev. Edmund Borycz or warning the priest's superiors, an assistant prosecutor sealed the file. That prevented anyone from discovering the case until a recent review during which Duggan's staff waded through all of the old files involving priests.

In a two-page letter of apology to Msgr. Walter Hurley, Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida's point man in the sex-abuse crisis, Duggan said he regrets that disciplinary action was not taken years ago against Borycz, who was removed Sunday from St. Michael parish.

The pain and embarrassment of removing Borycz "would have been avoided had the Prosecutor's Office been forthcoming with you in 1987," when Borycz was the pastor at St. Cyril of Jerusalem in Taylor, Duggan wrote.

Instead, Borycz was allowed to continue his long-standing practice of working as a chaplain for the Taylor Police Department and inviting a steady stream of troubled youth to stay with him at the St. Cyril rectory.

"This is conjecture, but I think one of the reasons why they didn't act is that, at that particular time, he had some strong influence with local law enforcement," said the Rev. Gary Morelli, the current pastor of the Taylor parish. "He was the chaplain to the Police Department for many, many years, and a lot of these teenagers he had living in the rectory were brought over to him by the police."

So many boys passed through the rectory that Morelli said he wouldn't be surprised if more claims against Borycz surface. "What I'm saying is that I don't know if the story about Father Ed is finished yet.

"And if someone else does come to me with another Father Ed story, I certainly will direct them immediately to the Prosecutor's Office," Morelli said.

Borycz continued his practice of inviting boys to stay with him at the rectory until recent months at St. Michael, said Duggan, although he stressed that no claims of misconduct have arisen from the Livonia parish.

Duggan is personally aware of the devastating impact of removing Borycz, because St. Michael is Duggan's home parish.

The prosecutor said he cannot prosecute Borycz because statutes of limitation have expired on the claims that have surfaced so far. However, he said, he will keep the investigation open in case other accusers come forward.

In a letter to the parish on Sunday, Borycz denied any wrongdoing. He could not be reached Monday for comment.

Duggan would not name the assistant prosecutor who concealed the claim against Borycz in 1987, but said that he left the prosecutor's staff years ago.

The first accusation against Borycz came from a man who told archdiocesan officials this year that he was abused by the priest at age 13 in the SS. Peter and Paul rectory on Detroit's west side in 1970, Duggan said.

One claim was not enough to spark action against the priest by church authorities, Hurley said. As recent as May, Borycz was among several accused priests continuing to work in parishes because church officials said the claims against them did not seem credible.

Further investigating Borycz's past in recent weeks, Duggan discovered the 1987 case in which a 19-year-old man attempted suicide and afterward told a social worker that Borycz had molested him a few months earlier at the St. Cyril rectory. The social worker then called police.

Duggan said police at the time discussed the claim with Borycz before interviewing the teenager. That allowed the priest time to contact the youth.

After that, Duggan said, the teenager declined to help prosecutors.

Duggan said he doesn't question why a prosecutor would opt not to issue a warrant if the accuser was uncooperative. His concerns are that the prosecutor failed to notify the archdiocese, did not investigate further and sealed the file.

"It's clear that he was trying to protect the reputation of the priest, but sealing is not a process here," Duggan said. "No one who works here can remember a file ever being sealed."

When prosecutors spoke with the accuser last week, the unnamed man admitted he had been pressured not to cooperate in 1987. He also handed over a letter written by Borycz and mailed June 21, 2002, warning him to expect a call from prosecutors.

"Obviously, when our prosecutor asked questions at St. Cyril's, Borycz figured it was a matter of time" before the accuser was contacted, Duggan said.

At archdiocesan headquarters on Monday, spokesman Ned McGrath said he welcomed Duggan's letter of apology but wishes the prosecutor would not have shared it with reporters.

"If he's going to prosecute someone, then it should be in the courts, rather than in the press," McGrath said.

On Sunday, Borycz was placed on leave. In coming weeks, McGrath said, an archdiocesan review board will weigh his case and decide whether he should be permanently banned from all church work under a new national church policy adopted in June.

It's clear already, though, that Borycz never should have housed minors in rectories, which violates a long-standing church policy, McGrath said.

"It's a bad practice in 2002, and it was a bad practice in 1987," McGrath said. "Common sense would just tell you it's the wrong thing to do."

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