Prosecutors and parishioners ratcheted up the pressure on the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit on Wednesday, asking by letter and peaceful protest that the church reveal more information about sexual misconduct allegations against priests.
Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca and Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga mailed letters to Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida requesting he turn over all information the church has on past allegations of sexual misconduct.
Also Wednesday, a group of Catholic faithful stood outside the archdiocese’s chancery office in downtown Detroit with clasped hands and bowed heads. Their prayer was softly spoken, but their message was direct.
“It’s just time this stopped. The denial, the cover-up, the lying,” said Julie Hollowell, a longtime member of Our Lady Gate of Heaven in Detroit and one of 11 protesters. “No one has ever taken a stand.”
On Tuesday night, about 200 parishioners filled St. Hugo of the Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills to discuss the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.
Some in the audience criticized the news media for focusing stories on the church’s performance, but others said the issue was important and needed to be aired.
“They should put this in balance, and don’t accuse the church of being out of order and everyone else in order,” said the Rev. Anthony Tocco, pastor and organizer of the forum.
During the last three weeks, three priests associated with the Detroit Archdiocese have been removed because of allegations of past sexual misconduct. Another was charged last week with raping a woman in October. In some cases, the archdiocese has deemed evidence credible enough to discipline priests and send them to treatment, but church officials did not notify law enforcement.
“It’s time to turn all of this information over,” Marlinga said.
He said he anticipates cooperation from the church, but said he will resort to more forceful tactics if necessary.
“If the answer is ‘no,’ we’ll be going into court on Monday to get our subpoenas,” Marlinga said, referring to the forced testimony of a bishop in Wayne County that helped lead to rape charges against the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame.
Archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said church leaders are considering the proposal for more information from Gorcyca, Marlinga and Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan. But the extent of the exchange had not been agreed upon.
“We’ll do whatever needs to be done to promote communication and start discussing these back cases,” McGrath said. “I don’t doubt that there will be some documents that will be shared.”
Several dioceses, including those in New York, Boston and Cleveland, have recently decided to turn over such information in light of revelations that priests who molested children had been shuttled from parish to parish with scant disclosures about their conduct, leaving scores of victims.
McGrath said Maida is considering significant changes.
Archdiocese officials have been reviewing the sexual misconduct policies of comparable dioceses in the country and plan to announce a revamped policy.
For some, the changes are long overdue, and parishioners at Gate of Heaven say they hope disclosures come quickly.
“The laity has taken on so much more responsibility in the church, but the one thing we are not given is trust from the hierarchy,” said Vicki Sawasky, a parishioner who participated in Wednesday’s protest and whose parish’s administrator, the Rev. Dennis Duggan, resigned March 26 after the archdiocese deemed an abuse allegation against him credible.
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