It’s all thanks to tips from the public.
That’s the message today from investigators who have charged five Catholic priests with sex abuse in Michigan.
Prosecutors say the case came together thanks to telephone tips and church documents seized last year.
In the last couple of days, four of the priests were arrested in Michigan, Florida, Arizona and California in the last couple days. According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the fifth now lives in India and is the subject of a planned extradition effort.
“Nearly all these charges came as a result of calls to our tip line,” Nessel said. “They were later corroborated by files that were seized from the dioceses last fall, followed by multiple interviews with victims.”
According to Nessel, the defendants “took advantage of their position of faith and authority” to prey on children and vulnerable adults.
“Those clergy were hiding in plain sight, purporting to comfort their parishioners, hearing their confessions,” she said. “Today, we begin holding those clergy accountable,” she said.
There are a total of 21 charges of criminal sexual conduct against the men as part of her office’s ongoing review of seven diocese in the state including Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing.
In some of the cases, the priests mixed their sexual activity with references to Catholic beliefs or committed the acts during Catholic rituals such as confession, according to affidavits.
Prosecutors say that in other cases, the priests plied children with drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and alcohol before sexually assaulting them. They say in one case, a priest threatened to kill his victim if the boy reported the abuse.
“I am deeply disturbed by what we have discovered,” Sherman said at the news conference. “I’m also disturbed by some attitudes of some of the hierarchy in the church … who demonstrated a serious misunderstanding of sexual assault.”
Sherman said in one case, a priest “explained that this child victim needed to simply admit that he teased, enticed, or gave permission for the abuse to occur”.
“This attitude is horrific” Sherman Said. “Sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim and it certainly can never be that sexual abuse of a child is a child’s fault.”
Here are the priests who are accused.
Patrick Casey, 55, was arrested Thursday in Oak Park, Michigan. Prosecutors say he was arrested for allegedly “performing oral sex on (a) victim during confession while acting as the victim’s spiritual counselor,” Nessel said.
That victim was a man in his 20s, according to an affidavit in the case.
Casey served at St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish in Westland. He now faces one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
According to an affidavit, one day in 2013 during confession:
“Casey approached John Doe and told him to stand up. Casey then began massaging John Doe’s genitalia before performing oral sex on him”.
According to the victim, the two talked about their struggles being gay and having suicidal thoughts at times.
“As John Doe spoke about his struggles with suicide and his concern about dying in mortal sin, Casey, who was dressed in black clerical garb, steered the conversation toward sex, telling him that he could not have a gay relationship and go to heaven,” said court papers. “Casey told John Doe that he was also gay and shared a suicidal story of his own.”
The next man charged is Timothy Michael Crowley, a priest who once worked at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor. He’s eight counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Some of those counts involve alleged sexual penetration of a child younger than 16, according to Nessel.
She says the 69-year-old priest abused his authority and used “force and coercion” to continue the abuse after the child turned 16.
He was arrested on Thursday in Tempe, Arizona.
According to the affidavit, Crowly is accused of fellatio and sexual penetration with a 10-year-old boy, plying him with alcohol and cigarettes…. then threatening to kill the boy if he reported the incidents.
“On multiple occasions, Crowley provided JOHN DOE with cigarettes and alcohol and forced JOHN DOE to watch pornography depicting homosexual sex,” read the affidavit. “Crowley would masturbate himself in JOHN DOE’s presence.”
According to the affidavit, while serving as an altar boy, the boy would stay the night with Crowley in his bed.
“On at least one occasion, Crowley forced JOHN DOE’s head down onto Crowley’s penis, causing Crowley’s penis to penetrate JOHN DOE’s mouth,” said the affidavit.
It went on to say:
“On one occasion at either St. Anthony or St. Thomas, Crowley told JOHN DOE that if JOHN DOE told the nun or his parents about the abuse, Crowley would kill him.”
Neil Kalina is a priest at St. Kiernan in Shelby Township. He was charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, two of which involved a victim who was younger than 13.
The 63-year-old is no longer a priest, but now works as a youth counselor running an organization called “High Hopes,” Nessel said.
Nessel said they believe Kalina started the organization to “prey on marginalized teenagers.” He was arrested Thursday night in Littlerock, California.
According to the criminal complaint, on at least four occasions, a boy between the ages of 12 and 14 “spent the night with Kalina in the rectory at St. Kieran’s”.
The affidavit stated:
“On at least two occasions, when John Doe was twelve years old, John Doe woke up to discover Kalina with his hands down John Doe’s pants, fondling his genitals,” said the affidavit.
80-year-old Vincent DeLorenzo worked at Holy Redeemer School in Burton before his arrest Thursday in Marion County, Florida.
The prosecutor said DeLorenzo is now charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct including sexual penetration of a child.
The affidavit described the priest’s alleged encounter with a 13-year-old boy:
“On many occasions, while alone with JOHN DOE, DeLorenzo would first pray and then insert his finger into JOHN DOE’s anus, penetrating him digitally,” said the affidavit.
He was placed on restricted ministry nearly 17 years ago, but still allowed to remain working within the Catholic Church.
“In 2002, DeLorenzo admitted to sexually abusing a minor boy in the 1980’s,” said the affidavit. “The Catholic Church placed him on restricted ministry, but still allowed him to remain within the Catholic Church.”
Then there’s 84-year-old Jacob Vellian, who worked at St. John the Evangelist in Benton Harbor before moving to India. He is charged with raping a victim younger than 16-years-old. He’s the last bust they’re waiting to complete.
“We’ve located him and we will be making efforts to extradite him,” Nessel said.
The affidavit states that Vellian penetrated with a finger a girl under the age of 16 in the 1970s.
In one of those alleged incidents, Vellian touched the girl’s “breasts underneath her bra and clothing, explained that he was praying for her, and was ‘trying to fill [her] soul with the Holy Spirit.'”
The affidavit goes on to state that Vellian fondled and penetrated the girl’s vagina several times before she was 16.
There’s more to come.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” Nessel vowed. “We anticipate many more charges and arrests as we continue to move forward with this work.”