Detroit, Mich., Jul 9, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit who helped to found a nonprofit to support priests accused of abuse, has been temporarily removed from ministry and is the subject of a canonical investigation, the archdiocese has confirmed.
Fr. Eduard Perrone, pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Grotto) Parish in Detroit, was accused of groping a former altar boy. The priest strenuously denies the allegations. His suspension was announced by the archdiocese on Sunday, July 7.
After receiving authorization from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the archdiocese conducted a preliminary investigation, the first stage of a canonical process, into the allegations against Perrone. A subsequent presentation to the Archdiocesan Review Board “found that there was a semblance of truth to the allegation,” Monsignor Mike Bugarin told CNA on Tuesday.
Bugarin serves as Episcopal Vicar and Delegate for Matters of Clergy Misconduct in the Detroit archdiocese.
While speaking to CNA, the monsignor avoided describing the charges as either “credible” or “substantiated” and emphasized that at this stage the only conclusion had been of a “semblance of truth.”
Semblance of truth is a legal standard in canon law usually defined as “not manifestly false or frivolous” that establishes only that an allegation cannot be immediately dismissed as factually impossible.
Bugarin emphasized that the process is still in the “very beginning” stages, and will now be referred back to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for further evaluation.
The Archdiocese of Detroit declined to provide details of when the alleged incident is said to have taken place, citing the ongoing nature of investigations, but did confirm that the alleged incident concerns Perrone’s “earlier years of ministry.”
Perrone was ordained in June of 1978. This complaint was received last year, according to the archdiocese, and is the first ever received against concerning the priest.
According to reporting from the Associated Press, the allegation stems from gatherings Perrone would have with altar boys at his mother’s lake house. Perrone told AP that there were always other adults present at these events, and that everyone remained fully clothed.
After receiving the complaint, Bugarin said the Archdiocese “turned it over not only to the local prosecutor, but also to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.” Initially, per an agreement between the archdiocese and the six county prosecutors represented by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s territory, the complaint was given only to local law enforcement, who began to investigate the claim.
“They in turn continued to do the investigation, until the Michigan Attorney General came in and announced an investigation of the seven dioceses of the state of in the Michigan on the handling of clergy sex abuse crisis,” said Bugarin. This meant that the attorney general was going to investigate the claim.
Three former altar boys who spoke to AP said they had not been sexually abused by Perrone, nor had they ever heard any rumors of the priest abusing anybody. Perrone himself vehemently denied that he ever did anything inappropriate with a child.
“Never inappropriate touching,” he said to the Associated Press when asked about the allegations. “I never ever would have done such a thing.”
Perrone is one of the founders of Opus Bono Sacerdotii. Established in 2002, the group describes itself as a support organization for priests facing “acute difficulties” including “criminal investigations and charges, substance and alcohol abuse, gambling addictions, pornography addiction, financial improprieties, behavioral and emotional disorders, vocational crises, interpersonal problems, career burnout, etc,”.
The organization did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.