Frequently Asked QuestionsHome > Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I report abuse?
Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or email@example.com. Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org and calling the toll-free, 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055, by calling (313) 237-6060, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.
Every complaint shared with the Archdiocese of Detroit, regardless of its source or the date of the alleged activity, is reported to civil authorities. No complaints are held back, pre-screened or disregarded.
2. Are reports of clergy sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults shared with law enforcement?
Yes. These reports are shared pursuant to a 2002 agreement signed with the Prosecuting Attorneys in the six counties within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Also that year, the archdiocese turned over to civil authorities its files relating to allegations of abuse from previous years.
3. Who, in addition to the victim assistance coordinator, are the key persons involved in processing abuse complaints brought to the Archdiocese of Detroit?
The archbishop appoints a priest as his delegate to oversee the investigation of all complaints of misconduct involving clergy and to enact those restrictions called for under Church (canon) law. Allegations involving clergy sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults are reviewed by a Review Board comprised predominately of lay people, led by a chairperson. The Review Board considers a complaint to be “credible" if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it appears to be or could possibly be true.
4. How long has the Archdiocese had a Review Board to assess allegations made against clergy and is it independent?
The archdiocese's Review Board was established in 2002 as an independent body to review and consider all complaints involving clergy sexual abuse of minors of vulnerable adults. The group then advises the Archbishop of its findings. A list of Review Board members is available here. (From 1988 to 2002, an ad-hoc committee advised the Archbishop’s priest-delegate handling abuse allegations.)
5. Why does the Archdiocese of Detroit conduct its own canonical reviews into priests accused of abuse?
The Archdiocese of Detroit is required under Church law to perform canonical reviews whenever priests are accused of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults. These reviews are always conducted after the archdiocese has notified law enforcement of the allegation and after civil authorities have completed their own investigation. It is important to note that our canonical reviews are conducted in addition to – not instead of – whatever law enforcement chooses to do.
The purpose of a canonical review is to restrict or remove from ministry those who have committed abuse. By way of a canonical decree,1 This action is taken regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred or whether criminal charges are ever filed. In cases where criminal charges aren’t filed, canonical reviews are the only way to remove an offending priest from public ministry.
1 A decree is an administrative act in which a decision is given or a provision is made for a particular case. A precept, which is a form of a decree, enjoins someone to do or not do something, especially in regard to the observance of church law. A decree must set forth the reasons for the decision having been made, leaving for the possibility of appeal. In a (arch)diocese, decrees are typically issued by the (arch)bishop or those with whom he has shared his executive or judicial authority: auxiliary bishops,2 vicars general,3 episcopal vicars,4 and judicial vicar.5
2 assigned to a (arch)diocese to assist its residential (arch)bishop.
3 priest or bishop who assists the (arch)bishop in the governance of the entire (arch)diocese.
4 priest or bishop who assists in a certain area, type of ministry, or groups of people.
5 priest or bishop appointed to head a diocesan court, e.g., the marriage tribunal.
6. When a complaint is found to be “credible,” how are the priest’s rights protected?
The priest is advised to immediately involve his Church (canon) lawyer. And, if he does not have one, the Archdiocese appoints someone to represent and advise him during the ongoing process. If a complaint is investigated by civil authorities, the priest is advised to involve a civil lawyer at his own expense.
7. Has the Archdiocese of Detroit paid settlements to victims? If so, how much has been paid?
Prior to 2004, the Archdiocese of Detroit paid out $1,377,000 in settlements and counseling for cases involving clerics. Since 2004, an additional $2,665,000 has been paid out in settlements and $428,167 in counseling costs, for a total of $3,093,167.
8. Where has the money for those payments come from? Are donations to the annual Catholic Services Appeal used to pay these settlements?
The Archdiocese of Detroit has utilized two funding sources for settlement and counseling costs. Between 1987 and 2002, $301,500 was paid by insurance. When such insurance became unattainable, the Detroit archdiocese and 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 then returned to the respective dioceses. The interest was left to provide the coverage that might be needed. No funds from the Catholic Services Appeal, Stewards for Tomorrow, Changing Lives Together or any other fundraising campaign are ever used for these purposes.
9. Does the Archdiocese of Detroit have abuse victims sign non-disclosure agreements?
No. Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not entered into any non-disclosure agreements, unless specifically requested by a survivor of abuse, as required by the Catholic Church in the United States. In addition, the archdiocese does not enforce any non-disclosure agreements signed prior to 2002. Those who entered into such agreements are free to publicly discuss their experiences.
10. Who pays attorney costs if a priest or deacon is civilly or criminally accused of the sexual abuse of a minor?
In such cases, the accused is advised to get an attorney at his own expense. He must pay for his own representation in court. The Detroit archdiocese does not cover any of those legal expenses.
11. Does the Archdiocese of Detroit publish the names of clergy removed from ministry because of abuse?
Yes. Since 2002, names have been publicized of all clergy removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Detroit because of credible claims of sexual abuse of minors. A current list is available on the archdiocesan website. Since 2014, the names of deceased priests, against whom an allegation is deemed posthumously credible, have also been listed.
12. Are all priests against whom an allegation is made removed from ministry?
As part of the canonical review process, all priests against whom an allegation of sexual misconduct is found by the Review Board to be credible – to have a semblance of truth – are restricted from public ministry pending the outcome of their canonical (Church) trial. There is a presumption of innocence during this process, as in civil cases. At the conclusion of that trial, if the accused is found guilty, the Holy See can impose a penalty either of permanent removal from public ministry or laicization, which formalizes a priest’s return to the status of layperson and severs his ties with his diocese.
13. What penalties can be imposed upon a priest who is found guilty by the Holy See?
There are a number of penalties that may be imposed upon a priest who is found guilty of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable adult. At a minimum, the priest may be forbidden from exercising public ministry and presenting himself as a priest (this includes a prohibition against wearing clerical attire and using the titles "Reverend" or "Father"). Other penalties include a requirement that the priest live a life of prayer and penance or even dismissal from the clerical state, or laicization.
14. How can the Archdiocese be sure that credibly accused priests abide by their restrictions from ministry?
The Archdiocese remains in contact with restricted priests and deacons to verify compliance with the strict limitations on their public ministry. Those priests who are permanently removed from ministry, after being found guilty by the Holy See, are monitored by a retired parole officer. Priests with such restrictions are required to meet or make contact with the archdiocesan monitor monthly, at a minimum, or weekly, depending upon the requirement placed upon them.
15. Does the Archdiocese have a policy on the clerical sexual abuse of children?
Yes. The Archdiocese was among the first when it implemented its Policy on the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy in 1988. It has been revised several times, and is being updated again. The policy takes into consideration the events and experiences of the past 30 years and the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People (Dallas Charter), enacted in 2002 by the Catholic bishops of the U.S.
16. Is the Archdiocese independently audited?
Yes. As required by the 2002 Dallas Charter, the Archdiocese of Detroit is independently audited each year. The 2017 audit was conducted on-site and included visits to four parishes, and the Archdiocese “was found compliant with all audited Articles” within the charter. The 2018 compliance letter, as well as letters from previous years, can be found here.
17. What does the Archdiocese do to prevent the sexual abuse of children, by clergy and others?
The Archdiocese recognizes that the best approach to addressing abuse is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Since 2002, the Archdiocese has had a robust safe environment program, designed to help people identify situations that could leave a child vulnerable to the methods of a sexual offender and to emphasize the critical steps that must be taken to prevent and report the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults. The program for adults has trained over 101,000 people in our parishes, schools, and other ministries. Tens-of-thousands more individuals have been trained through age-appropriate programs for grade, middle, high school and religious education students.
18. What does the Archdiocese do to protect its seminarians and to form good, healthy and holy priests?
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, which forms priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit and many other dioceses, carefully adheres to the universal and national norms articulated by the Church for the formation of candidates for the priesthood. The seminary does not tolerate sexual abuse or abuse of any kind within its own programs, and further, it discerns rigorously the candidates who apply. All admitted seminarians are formally evaluated yearly throughout their studies. Information and resources about the seminary's rigorous and extensive admittance, discernment and formation process, one which is done prayerfully, collaboratively and continually, can be found here.
19. I received a sacrament (e.g., baptism, confirmation, marriage) from a priest who has since been credibly accused/removed from ministry/dismissed from the clerical state. Is that sacrament still valid?
Yes. The grace of the sacraments are given to us by God, working through His ministers. The holiness or sinfulness of the priest or deacon administering the sacrament has no effect on the validity of the sacrament. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully: 'As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth ... the spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.'" (CCC 1584)
20. Where can I find more information about how the Archdiocese of Detroit receives and processes abuse allegations?
In the summer of 2018, the Archdiocese of Detroit created a website designed to consolidate and share its ongoing efforts to address clergy sexual abuse. The website, protect.aod.org, includes information about how to report abuse, how allegations are investigated, and other resources relating to the Archdiocese's efforts to protect all those in its care. Also on this site is an open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, Chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, in which he details the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
21. If I have more questions about how the Archdiocese of Detroit handles abuse allegations/cases/etc., who do I contact?
Please email us at AODCommunications@aod.org.
22. What is the purpose of the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting System (CBAR)?
The purpose of CBAR is to provide a third-party service for gathering and relaying to appropriate Church authorities reports of the following kinds of misconduct by a U.S. Catholic bishop:
- Forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat or abuse of authority
- Performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person
- Produced, exhibited, possessed or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions
- Intentionally interfering with a civil or Church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious
23. What kinds of reports should not be made through CBAR?
All other complaints against bishops, such as theological concerns, liturgical abuses, church closings, priest assignments, etc., are beyond the scope of CBAR.
24. Will CBAR respect my privacy? Will my report be kept confidential?
Although reports made through CBAR will be routed to appropriate Church personnel and, as warranted, civil authorities, for investigation purposes, the reports will otherwise be kept confidential. You are not required to provide your name or contact information, although you may choose to do so to facilitate the investigative process. All data submitted through CBAR is protected through enhanced encryption.
25. What should be included in a report made through CBAR?
Your report must include:
- The name of the U.S. Catholic bishop you are reporting
- A description of the allegation, the place where it took occurred, and the timeframe of when it occurred, as best you can remember
It will be helpful if the report also includes as many relevant details as possible, such as the names of other individuals involved, as well as dates, times, known circumstances, or other information useful to assess the facts of the situation.
26. What happens once a report is made through CBAR?
Once you submit a report, you will be given an access number and password that you can use to follow-up on the status of your report. The service can provide automated reports at a very general level but can also provide a confidential means of communication for asking more detailed questions.
Reports will be forwarded to the proper Church authorities, usually a metropolitan bishop (the head of an ecclesiastical province; in the case of Michigan, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron is the metropolitan bishop). If the report concerns the metropolitan bishop, it will be forwarded to the next-most senior bishop (by date of appointment) in the province (in Michigan, that is currently Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing). At the same time, reports are forwarded to a qualified lay person who has been assigned to assist the bishop in receiving reports. Reports involving crimes are also forwarded to the appropriate civil authorities.
The bishop who receives the report will forward it to the Apostolic Nuncio (the Holy Father’s representative in the United States) along with an initial assessment. The Apostolic Nuncio will forward both the report and assessment to the Vatican.
Within 30 days, the Vatican will determine if a formal investigation is warranted and, if so, will authorize a bishop to conduct that investigation. If an investigation is ordered, it will be conducted by qualified experts, including lay persons. Normally, investigations will be completed within 90 days of receiving the order from the Vatican.
Upon receiving the conclusions of the investigation, the Vatican will initiate the appropriate process that will lead to a final judgement.s
27. Who is the third party involved in providing the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR)?
CBAR is provided by Convercent, Incorporated, a commercial vendor of ethics reporting services.
28. Who investigates reports made via CBAR?
Neither Convercent nor the third-party system conducts any investigation. Instead, CBAR only gathers and routes reports to the appropriate Church officials in a manner consistent with canon (Church) law so they can, in turn, be investigated. Some reports, such as those of sexual abuse of a minor, will be conveyed to civil authorities as well. In those cases, Church official will suspend any canonical action in deference to an investigation being conducted by civil authorities when they so request.
29. Which bishop are covered by CBAR?
This reporting service may be used to report the actions or inactions of living U.S. Catholic bishops, whether active or retired, of U.S. dioceses or eparchies. This includes the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and bishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA, and current diocesan and apostolic administrators of vacant U.S. sees.