The crisis over the sexual abuse of minors that is rocking the Catholic Church led to the removal of a popular Trenton priest this week, though his misconduct involved adults, church officials said Tuesday.
When the Rev. James Vedro moved to Michigan in 1991, Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida was told by Vedro’s religious order, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, that he had violated his vows of celibacy once in the past with an adult.
“We were informed that there was a single indiscretion” and that it did not involve criminal activity, said Ned McGrath, Maida’s spokesman.
Maida’s staff decided there was no risk that Vedro would misbehave again, McGrath said. They did not tell parishioners about his past, but did permit his move first to St. Alphonsus in Dearborn as an associate pastor, then to St. Cyprian in Riverview as an associate and then to St. Joseph in Trenton as a pastor in 1996.
However, in light of the crisis over priests abusing minors, Vedro’s Crosier superiors in the Midwest hired a Minnesota law firm, Faegre & Benson LLP, to reinvestigate all past allegations of sexual misconduct.
Nine Crosiers work in southeast Michigan, helping to staff St. Cyprian in Riverview, St. Cecilia in Detroit, St. Dennis in Royal Oak and St. Alfred in Taylor, where a Crosier is associate pastor, said David Kostik, spokesman for Crosier officials based in Minnesota.
Kostik declined to discuss Vedro’s case in detail Tuesday, but said the new investigation uncovered more information.
“Our actions demonstrate our commitment to respond very seriously to allegations of sexual misconduct,” Kostik said.
On Tuesday, the 3,200 members of the 153-year-old Trenton parish began receiving letters from the Crosiers, explaining that Vedro was removed this week because of “incidents of sexual misconduct with adults” before 1991.
The news stunned Parish Council President Richard Eagal.
“This is going to be devastating to our parish, because people got so close to Father Jim while he was here. It’s going to go a long way to destroy a lot of the work he did here,” Eagal said.
Vedro, 64, had hoped to work six more years at the growing parish, where he had spearheaded a $5-million building program to double the size of the church and add a gymnasium for the school, Eagal said.
“We were just bursting at the seams. He took us through a hard transitional period of this large building project,” Eagal said. “And he also increased the camaraderie and friendliness among church members. People are very sad to see him go.”
Vedro is at least the 11th priest fired or restricted in the Archdiocese of Detroit for sexual misconduct since January.
Kostik and McGrath said they are unsure what further steps will be taken against Vedro. For now, he has left Michigan and will live in a Crosier facility. Vedro could not be reached for comment.
His replacement is the Rev. Steven Wertanen, who has been an associate pastor in Northville.