Lansing, Mich., May 24, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- Five men who served in Michigan as Catholic priests have been charged with 21 counts of sex abuse, the state attorney general announced Friday.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at May 24 press conference, reported by the New York Times. “We anticipate many more charges and arrests.”
She added: “Although we have charged these men with very serious crimes, I want to remind everyone that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.”
The five men are accused of abusing five individuals: four of them male, and one of them female, M-Live in Michigan reported. Four of the alleged victims were minors.
Those charged are: Timothy Crowley, 69, and Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, of the Diocese of Lansing; Patrick Casey, 55, of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Jacob Vellian, 84, of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, who served in the Diocese of Kalamazoo for one year in the 1970s; and Neil Kalina, 63, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who served in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
One of the men was arrested in Michigan, while three others were arrested in Arizona, California, and Florida. The fifth, Vellian, could be extradited from his home country of India.
Casey was removed from ministry in 2015, and faces an ongoing canonical process. Kalina left active ministry in 1993. DeLorenzo was removed from ministry after the Lansing diocese receiving a complaint against him in 2002, and the diocese is seeking to have him dismissed from the clerical state. Crowley was removed from ministry after an allegation was made against him in 1993, and he has been dismissed from the clerical state.
Vellian is retired and resides at Bethsleehe Seminary, according to the MSP Society at the website of his archeparchy.
The charges were made during the ongoing statewide investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.
Michigan launched an investigation into Catholic clergy in September 2018, following the release of a Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania which detailed decades of abuse allegations against 300 Catholic priests in that state. It also followed the suspension of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with seminarians. McCarrick was suspended from public ministry in July 2018, and was dismissed from the clerical state in January 2019.
After the announcement of the investigation in the fall of 2018, the dioceses said they welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.
A statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit said at the time that they “looked forward” to cooperating with state officials and actively participating in the investigation. The archdiocese also emphasized its confidence in its safe environment practices already in place, but added that the investigation would be the next step toward healing.
So far, the Michigan investigation team has reviewed hundreds of tips, as well as hundreds of thousands of abuse-related documents that were seized in police raids of all seven Catholic dioceses in the state, M-Live reported. Most of the tips have come through a hotline established specifically for abuse.
Nessel said at the press conference that she believed only 5-10 percent of the documents had been reviewed thus far.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg…This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold all of them accountable – that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power by victimizing our residents,” she said.
Ned McGrath, the public affairs director for the archdiocese, said at the news conference that the Archdiocese of Detroit continues to promise its full cooperation with authorities in the investigation.
In March of this year, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the state’s legislature for an additional $2 million in funding for the abuse investigation, which is expected to last two years.
In April of this year, Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave told CNA that he was concerned that Nessel appeared to demonstrate an anti-Catholic bias over multiple previous statements made either in public or on social media.
Similar clergy sex abuse investigations have been launched in multiple states throughout the country, including in Georgia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Nebraska.
Last year Michigan extended the statue of limitations in sexual assault cases to 15 years after the incident in criminal cases and 10 in civil cases. Indictments for abuse of minor victims can be filed within 15 years of the crime or by the victim’s 28th birthday, whichever comes later. First-degree criminal sexual abuse, such as rape of a minor, has no statute of limitations in the state.