Detroit Catholic Cardinal Adam Maida fired two priests Friday — the first to be removed by the Archdiocese of Detroit under the church’s new zero-tolerance policy against the sexual abuse of minors.
Both priests — the Rev. Robert Haener, 70, and the Rev. Michael Daly, 53 — already had been working in restricted ministries for the Felician Sisters in Livonia, because of past charges of abusing children.
Both men are now barred from ever working for the church again. They must never wear their clerical garb or represent themselves as priests in public.
Their removal sparked sharply conflicting emotions.
For the last eight years, Haener has helped countless families through the painful experiences of death at the Felicians’ Angela Hospice. His abrupt departure this week is a terrible loss, said Sister Giovanni, president of the hospice.
“There’s a shortage of priests,” Sister Giovanni said Friday. “I certainly support the cardinal and I understand the people who have been hurt, but what do we do? We need someone to minister to the dying. We will not have a mass here this Sunday unless some priest steps forth.”
In the early 1960s at St. Francis Cabrini High School in Allen Park and later at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, Haener was notorious for calling boys into his office, making them kneel and then rubbing himself against the youths, alumni of the schools have said.
“He was a creep,” said Marlene Blaszczyk of Waterford, who graduated from Bishop Foley in 1971 and said she has talked with many of Haener’s victims over the years. “I know of people who were pretty screwed up as a result of having been around him, and they’re all male. The main victims at Bishop Foley were in the class of 1969 and 1970.”
Blaszczyk said that she and other classmates are angry that the archdiocese waited so long to oust Haener, when stories about his interactions with teenage boys were widespread for years.
“I think the archdiocese should be charged with obstruction of justice,” she said. “I don’t care whether there was a state law requiring that they report this. Morally, they should have felt a responsibility to report these allegations. They thought they were above the law.”
This week, Maida met with Haener and Daly and explained the church’s new rules, approved one week ago by nearly 300 U.S. bishops meeting in Dallas.
Maida’s spokesman, Ned McGrath, declined to say where the men will live, but the priests appear to have bowed to the strict new limits.
“Father Haener accepted with humility and resignation the cardinal’s decision to remove him from his ministry, which he so loved,” Sister Giovanni said.
Until Friday, Daly was the on-site chaplain for the Felicians. A spokesman for the religious order could not be reached Friday for comment.
Neither Haener nor Daly could be reached.
But it was clear that their departure is a serious blow to the religious community in Livonia, bringing to three the number of priests ousted from the Felician complex.
The first priest forced out this spring was the Rev. Joseph Sito, who had been living in the same housing for retired clergy as Haener.
Like both Haener and Daly, Sito had been living under restrictions for abuse. The men were not supposed to work with young people.
In April, the Free Press reported that Sito was saying mass at the Felician chapel, despite a 1999 conviction for assaulting a 17-year-old boy during confession in the priest’s apartment. In May, the archdiocese moved Sito to an undisclosed location where they said he could be better monitored.
Other senior priests still live in the retirement complex, but finding any priest to help with the hospice or celebrate mass at the chapel is going to be a challenge, said Sister Giovanni.
“All of the senior priests seem to be taken up at parishes,” she said.
On Friday, McGrath said, “We’ll work with the Felicians to make sure they’re not left in the lurch.”
McGrath said Haener started his ministry in 1957 as an associate pastor at St. Gerard in Detroit. From 1961-1965, he served at Cabrini, then was named principal at Foley in 1965. In the 1970s, he worked at parishes in Southgate and Erie, then moved to St. Anthony in Temperance in 1986. Six years later, in 1992, he was placed on leave by the archdiocese as a result of complaints about sexual misconduct.
In 1993, he moved to Livonia and became the hospice chaplain in 1994.
Daly began serving as associate pastor at parishes in Dearborn, Southfield and Lincoln Park in the 1970s. He was a pastor only from 1985-89 at St. Michael in Pontiac. Later, he served as an associate in Lincoln Park and Roseville, then became a chaplain at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
In 1994, he was placed on leave because of “a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with minors that was brought forward,” McGrath said in a statement.
He moved to Livonia, as well, and was hired by the Felicians in 1996 as a chaplain.