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Jailed Priest Faces Lawsuit

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Aug 12, 2003 | The Detroit News

Attorneys for two former altar boys who claim they were sexually assaulted by a priest more than 20 years ago filed a lawsuit today in Wayne Circuit Court against the priest and the Catholic Church.

The suit, claims the two boys were raped by Rev. Jason Sigler, who is now serving a seven- to 15-year prison term in Jackson on several sexual abuse charges.

The lawsuit also named as defendants the Archdiocese of Detroit and Cardinal Adam Maida; the Diocese of Lansing and Bishop James Murray; the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Archbishop Michael Jarobe Sheehan and former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez; and The Servants of Paraclete.

The lawsuit claims they engaged in a cover-up of the alleged abuses by Sigler, 65, who visited Metro Detroit briefly in 1970 and 1976.

The lawsuit relies in part on a 1962 Vatican Order that the attorneys for the accusers say required absolute secrecy of sexual abuse claims against priests, while authorizing the transfer of transgressing priests from one parish to another.

Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said the Vatican Order is being misrepresented.

"It's a stretch to take a 40-year-old document out of context and make something the authors never intended it to mean," McGrath said.

"We don't believe the order even remotely considers the question of reporing civil crimes."

Sigler pleaded guilty last month to abusing a 13-year-old altar boy at St. Robert's Catholic Church near Flint in 1976. He was also charged with molesting the boy's younger brother, to which he pleaded no contest.

As part of the sentence handed down Aug. 4 in Genesee County Circuit Court in Flint, Sigler must undergo sex-offender therapy besides serving his prison time.

Before the most recent case, Sigler was sentenced in January in Wayne County to one year in jail and five years' probation after pleading no contest to second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

In that case, prosecutors said Sigler molested a 12-year-old boy while Sigler served at St. Mary Magdalene's in Hazel Park more than 30 years ago. The abuse took place in a River Rouge house, prosecutors said.

In 1970, Sigler left the Diocese of Lansing to seek treatment at a center for priests in New Mexico. But after his release, Sigler worked in New Mexico churches and later acknowledged abusing at least 17 boys during the 1970s and 1980s.

He pleaded guilty in 1983 to a sex charge, and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe settled more than 20 sex abuse lawsuits against him at a cost of at least $13 million.


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