A Jenison priest who served seven years as pastor at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Park Township has settled a sexual abuse claim leveled at him by a former altar boy and lay minister who claims he was abused at the church in the mid-1980s.
The Grand Rapids Diocese confirmed that it paid Daniel Hoogterp, now 38, of Grand Rapids, $75,000 to settle claims that he was sexually abused when he was his early 20s by the Rev. Richard Lawie, now pastor at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Jenison.
Lawie, who served at Our Lady of the Lake from 1986 to 1993, paid $15,000 toward the settlement himself.
According to the diocese, Hoogterp claimed that Lawie invited him to spend the night at Our Lady of the Lake while the man was seeking spiritual guidance. During the night, Hoogterp claimed, Lawie molested him several times.
After keeping mum on the subject for years, Lawie apparently told the diocese in 1993 about the incident and asked officials to help Hoogterp with counseling costs.
Diocesan spokeswoman Mary Haarman said Tuesday that Lawie is still at Holy Redeemer and that no indication about his future within the diocese has yet been given.
Haarman did say, however, that to her knowledge, no other allegations had been made against Lawie and that his time spent in Park Township was seemingly without incident, as well.
“Looking back, I have no knowledge yet of anything that happened in Holland,” Haarman said. “I know of no other allegations against Father Lawie in Holland or anywhere else.”
The “zero tolerance” policy adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops last year bars priests from any public ministry if they have committed sexual abuse against a minor. Under that policy, Grand Rapids Bishop Robert Rose decided in July to remove a Holland native, the Rev. Don Heydens, from all priestly ministry because he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with teen-age girls while serving at a Grand Rapids parish in the 1970s.
Our Lady of the Lake officials wouldn’t comment on Lawie’s tenure at the church, referring all inquiries to Haarman and the diocesean office.
In a statement issued Tuesday by Lawie through the diocese, the priest confessed to engaging in “inappropriate behavior with an adult male friend,” more than a decade ago.
Lawie also said that he plans to repay the diocese for the money that was paid in the settlement.
“Settling this issue was the best way to avoid further pain and humiliation and provide all of us an opportunity to continue the healing process,” he said in his statement. “I have discussed repayment with the diocese and I have already made strides in that direction.”