It’s hard to miss the news of the priest sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
If you have seen the 2015 movie Spotlight, you have seen a near depiction of how the widespread abuse of child victims in the Catholic Church was uncovered by a team of reporters from the Boston Globe.
The series of stories won the Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. That was in the early 2000s. Now, it seems like we are hearing about new cases by the dozens all the time.
In 2019, after Cardinal McCarrick was de-frocked when his long-term and widespread abuse was uncovered, several states decided that enough was enough, and they began their own investigations.
Michigan has joined the ranks of states who are bringing charges against abusive priests.
Michigan Priests Charged
In November 2019, a former Michigan priest pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment of a 17-year-old boy whom he’d bound in a janitor’s closet in 2013.
According to the Kalamazoo Diocesan records, Rev. Brian Stanley had a history of this binding behavior. It had gone on for decades.
Only after the boy reported it did the diocese make a report to Child Protective Services. It would take five more years and a raid of the diocesan files by the Attorney General’s Office for Father Stanely to be charged with a crime.
During that time, Stanley was back on active duty as a priest for four years because the victim refused to testify. Now, he has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of Attempted Unlawful Imprisonment and will face five years in prison.
In addition, as a result of the raid in 2018, five other priests have been charged with serious crimes:
- Timothy Michael Crowley, 69, of the Lansing Diocese, has been charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC).
- Neil Kalina, 63, of the Archdiocese of Detroit, has been charged in Macomb County with four felony counts of second-degree CSC.
- Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, of the Lansing Diocese has been charged with three counts of first-degree CSC.
- Patrick Casey, 55, of the Archdiocese of Detroit, was charged in Wayne County with one count of third-degree CSC.
- Jacob Vellian, 84, of the Kalamazoo Diocese has been charged with two counts of rape.
These charges center on the alleged abuse of five individuals, four of whom are male and one female.
Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan
Sex offenses are called “Criminal Sexual Conduct” by Michigan state law. It covers a wide range of sexual behavior that may not be covered under the definition of “rape” but is more detailed than “molestation.”
Under Michigan law, First and Third Degree CSC involves penetration, while Second and Fourth Degree CSC involve sexual contact without penetration.
Take a look at our guide to Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges in Michigan to get a better idea of how these priests are being charged.
First degree CSC is punishable by up to life in prison, lifetime electronic monitoring, and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Third-degree CSC is punishable by up to 15 years in prison plus monitoring and sex offender registration.
Second-degree CSC is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, as well as monitoring and mandatory registry as a sex offender.
Since many priests around the country and the world are accused of preying on children, and these priests in Michigan are no different, their charges will automatically be more serious and reflective of that fact.
Takeaway: Justice for Victims
Have you or has a loved one been abused by a priest or a person in power? Was it a long time ago?
In Michigan, there is no statute of limitations for First Degree CSC. That means, no matter how long ago it occurred, the person who committed the crime can still be brought to justice for that crime.
For all other occurrences of CSC, there is a 10-year limitation on charges or until the victim turns 21, whichever comes last.
By now, the knowledge that the hierarchy in the Catholic Church allowed abuse to continue by returning abusive priests to their jobs or moving them to a different diocese is more widespread.
In decades past, it was uncommon for victims to speak out against the clergy. However, now, there are government entities investigating these crimes. There is also a network of people dedicated to helping those victimized by the church.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is a nonprofit organization that helps victims speak out about their abuse. You can report any suspicions of abuse by calling 1-844-324-3374 or using this confidential online reporting form.
You can also report to the Michigan hotline at (1-844-324-3374) or online at mi.gov/clergyabuse.