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Priests' Hearings Scheduled

Dec 15, 2002 | Heritage

Three current or former Catholic priests facing charges of criminal sexual conduct have seen or will see the inside of a courtroom this month.

All three have been involved Downriver, either by having served in local parishes or by allegedly molesting children who have lived in the area.

A jury trial for the Rev. Edward Olszewski will begin tomorrow in Detroit before Wayne County Circuit Judge Diane Hathaway. Olszewski faces eight counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

He had served as associate pastor of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Dearborn in 1975.

A final conference involving former priest Harry Benjamin III, who was made a layman in 1992, was to be held Friday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards.

He had served as associate pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Trenton in 1979.

The Archdiocese of Detroit addressed complaints of sexual abuse about Benjamin in late 1989.

He now is charged with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old boy who belonged to St. Thomas a’ Becket Parish in Canton.

The third man is Jason Sigler, who also has been laicized.

He has never served Downriver but is accused of four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and four in the second degree for allegedly assaulting a then 12-year-old boy in the boy’s family’s home in River Rouge and other places.

Sigler was born in River Rouge in 1939.

A preliminary examination of the evidence against him is set for Wednesday before 26th District Judge Raymond Charron in River Rouge.

The three were among several priests who were alleged to have committed wrongful sexual acts with children or adults.

The others could not be charged because the allegations dated back many years and were too old to use against them.

A fourth priest who was charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Rev. Robert Burkholder, recently was required to spend 30 days in jail for the sexual abuse. Over many years, several people have alleged that he committed such wrongful acts.

The Catholic Church has been criticized over the past year for not reporting incidents officials knew about to local authorities.

Because so many such cases were brought to light this year, changes have been made. A recent one was to Michigan’s Child Protection Law.

The passage of House Bill 5984 would add members of the clergy to the list of professionals required to report reasonable cause for child abuse.

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