2019 Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse

Home > Resources > 2019 Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse

The Archdiocese of Detroit first implemented its Policy on the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy in 1988. The current, revised policy takes into consideration events and experiences of the past 30+ years, including The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the Dallas Charter), which was enacted in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The Archdiocese of Detroit fully complies with the provisions of the Dallas Charter, including restricting the ministry of any priest against whom there is a “credible allegation” of the sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person,1 and the permanent removal from ministry of any priest subsequent to a determination of clerical sexual abuse by a canonical (Church law) process. Like all other U.S. dioceses, the Archdiocese of Detroit is subject to an independent compliance audit annually.2

Another key provision of the Charter involves safe-environment training for all clerics serving in the Archdiocese of Detroit (including those who incardinate/transfer here or are in the area under different circumstances – e.g., as a student – and want to serve publicly in priestly ministry); priest candidates at Sacred Heart Major Seminary;3 as well as lay personnel, volunteers and students. Tens of thousands of individuals have been trained in the Archdiocese of Detroit over the past 17 years.4

In 2002, a newly constituted Review Board was established to consider all reports of abuse and to advise the Archbishop. The Board is led by a retired Michigan Appeals Court Judge who was key in the drafting and adoption of the state’s first Victim’s Rights Act. Other individuals currently serving on the board include a retired prosecutor who established and led Wayne County’s first dedicated child abuse unit; a child psychologist; a health care executive; a former superintendent of Catholic schools; and an archdiocesan pastor.

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, teachers, staff, volunteers, or other Church representatives are urged to contact law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org, calling the toll-free, 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing vac@aod.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse. Calls to the Archdiocese are initially handled by the Victim Assistance Coordinator. Those who have been abused will be referred for additional support to assist in their psychological and spiritual healing, i.e., professional counseling and/or spiritual direction. The archbishop’s priest-delegate will meet with the complainant, and, if requested and deemed helpful in the healing process, the archbishop himself will offer to meet with the victim-survivor.

Pursuant to a 2002 agreement with the six Michigan county prosecutors within the Archdiocese of Detroit, every complaint received by the Archdiocese of Detroit is immediately turned over to civil authorities, regardless of its source or when the alleged abuse took place. No complaints are held back, pre-screened or disregarded. The Archdiocese fully cooperates with law enforcement.

Similarly, every complaint is considered by the Review Board. Regardless of what finding or course of action civil authorities may pursue, if a complaint is found by the Review Board to be credible, the priest or deacon is restricted from ministry pending further investigation and resolution of the matter. The Archdiocese considers a complaint to be credible if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning the allegation seems to be neither manifestly false nor frivolous; it appears to be or could possibly be true. Complaints involving non-clerical personnel are processed pursuant to the Archdiocesan Code of Conduct. In 2019, a Vatican-mandated protocol was adopted in the United States for reporting allegations of sexual abuse by bishops.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, no priest or deacon with a credible complaint against him is allowed to continue in active ministry during the time his case is under review by the Church or civil authorities. Those priests who are restricted and/or removed from ministry are monitored by a retired parole officer to ensure compliance with the strict limitations on their public ministry.5

In 2004, aggregate statistics for all U.S. dioceses were released in a study done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A subsequent study considered causes and context, and in 2019 an update to the John Jay research was released providing recommendations and policies needed for institutional change.6 In the Archdiocese of Detroit, over the past 70 years, there have been 75 clerics credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. That number represents less than 2 percent of the total number of priests who served in the Archdiocese of Detroit from 1950 to 2019. During those years, there have been approximately 155 victims known to the Archdiocese of Detroit. The vast majority of reports received in recent years involve abuse that occurred decades ago.

Knowing this, the Archdiocese acknowledges that one case of abuse is one too many. No matter when the abuse occurred, victims deserve healing and justice. The names of priests and deacons removed subsequent to adoption of the 1988 policy, along with earlier cases that received public notoriety, are posted on the Archdiocese’s website dedicated to consolidating and sharing ongoing efforts to protect all those in its care: Protect. Prevent. Heal. Those religious order clerics who have served in southeast Michigan, and of whom the Archdiocese has learned of their restricted and/or removed status, are also listed.

Prior to 2004, the Archdiocese of Detroit provided $1,377,000 in settlements and counseling for cases involving clerics. Since 2005, an additional $3,097,590 has been provided, for cases involving clerics and lay employees, as follows:

Fiscal YearSettlement Amount

(Number of cases)

Counseling Amount

(Number of cases)

2005–06$39,000 (2)
2006–07

$30,000 (1)

$36,000 (10)
2007–08$29,000 (8)
2008–09$725,000 (1)$26,000 (7)
2009–10

$34,000 (12)

2010–11$900,000 (2)

($250,000 + $650,000)

$36,000 (17)
2011–12$28,500 (16)
2012–13$42,072 (22)
2013–14$310,000 (1)$30,275 (17)
2014–15$25,863 (14)
2015–16$28,504 (15)
2016–17$700,000 (1)$39,851 (17)
2017–18

$33,102 (13)

2018–19$37,525 (6)

In accordance with the stipulations of the Dallas Charter, the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2002 has not required or requested any confidentiality agreements, but will respect one if specifically requested by a victim. To date, all settlements have involved individual claims filed in civil court.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has utilized two funding sources for settlement and counseling costs. Secondary would be insurance carriers that covered a portion of the costs ($301,500) between 1987 and 2002. When such insurance became unattainable, the Archdiocese of Detroit and the other dioceses of Michigan set up a special fund, similar to "self-insurance," from investment income to replace the insurance coverage previously purchased. These funds grew to the point where the original deposit was returned to the respective dioceses. The interest was left to provide the coverage that might be needed. This would be the primary funding source for the remainder of the settlement costs covered by the Archdiocese of Detroit.

In 2019, the Archdiocese of Detroit was among those informed by a plan drafted to create a new culture of leadership and a new response to abuse in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Partnership Summit, convening under the auspices of the Leadership Roundtable – clergy, religious and lay Catholics – produced the report in its ongoing service as a collaborative partner to Church leaders.9

Respectfully submitted, 

Ned McGrath
Director of Public Affairs 
Archdiocese of Detroit
September 2020



Footnotes
  1. Glossary of Terms
  2. 2019 Audit Compliance Letter and Annual Report from the USCCB
  3. Beyond mandatory safe environment training and ongoing updates, the matriculation process for seminarians includes, but is not limited to, background screening with law enforcement, spiritual and psychological evaluations/counseling, and formation in human/psychosexual development and celibate chastity. More information on priestly formation is found on the seminary’s website.
  4. The VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children® was implemented in May 2003. Since that time, more than 100,000 adults have completed the training in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Of the 70,180 students enrolled in Catholic schools and religious education in the Archdiocese of Detroit, 95 percent have completed age-appropriate safe environment training programs. Each year, approximately 1,000 teens attend Called to Serve trainings at one of the dozens of workshops hosted by parishes.
  5. Currently, the Promoter of Ministerial Standards monitors seven priests, one of whom is serving a sentence in federal prison.
  6. John Jay College of Criminal Justice:
    1. The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons (2004)
    2. The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States (2011)
    3. Sexual Abuse of Youth in the Catholic Church and Society: Prevalance, Context and Future Directions (2019)