A retired 83-year-old Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years probation for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in 1986.
Robert Burkholder, who has admitted molesting at least a dozen boys going as far back as the 1940s, pleaded no contest in the case Friday. He was ordered to register as a sex offender.
In August, Burkholder was charged with engaging in sexual conduct with the boy while the pair vacationed in Hawaii in 1986. The trip was an eighth-grade graduation present to the boy, prosecutors said.
A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.
“While there is resolution of the case at hand, the archdiocese recognizes this is a sad and difficult time for everyone involved,” Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said in a statement.
The archdiocese says Burkholder has not been defrocked, but is serving under a leave of absence and has been banned from wearing the collar and calling himself a priest. He now lives in Leeward Oahu, Hawaii.
Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan has branded Burkholder “one of the worst pedophiles we have ever had in this state.”
Burkholder’s attorney has said his client has dementia, a claim Duggan labeled a “sham.”
“We just got carried away,” Burkholder told The Detroit News of the 13-year-old boy. “He might have been lonely. And priests are lonely persons, too. We need friendships, and kids love priests. I weakened. I was looking for affection.”
In an interview in August, Burkholder acknowledged misconduct in the 1940s and 1950s.
At least 30 Catholic priests in Michigan have left or been removed or suspended from duty since Jan. 1 amid sexual abuse or misconduct allegations. Three other men who once served as priests in the Detroit area also were charged in August.