Catholic citizens group calls for priest reinstatement after sexual harassment claims
WEXFORD COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- A Catholic citizens group is calling for the reinstatement of a priest, after they say he was suspended for filing a complaint of sexual harassment against a top diocesan official.
Several members of the Gaylord Diocesan Watch group met at a Cadillac restaurant Wednesday, presenting several documents that they say detail the suspended priest’s descriptions of “inappropriate touching” by the diocesan official on several occasions starting in 2015.
They say in January, Bishop Raica said that the priest was suspended because he was violating church law.
“A grave injustice has been inflicted by Bishop Raica against [the priest],” said Dr. Richard Brenz, a spokesperson with Gaylord Diocesan Watch. “We respectfully are following the advice of Bishop Raica himself, who advised in a letter to the faithful on Aug. 15, 2018, following the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report: ‘Call us out when our behaviors or words do not correspond with the heart of Christ; and if you see suspicious activities by priests, religious, lay leaders or volunteers.’”
The group says they don’t want to ruin reputations or standing in the church, but do want to see reform in the Gaylord Chancery.
“We're hoping to restore humility, we also want to improve the integrity of the process that goes on in the dioceses,” explained Dr. Brenz. “We want to promote transparency and by doing so, and the way that we are going to do so, is to try to present this in a way that the bishop can use to the best of his abilities; we have too few good catholic priests and when you have a good one you really have to defend them.”
The group has posted information and documents they say shows statements from the priest.
The Diocese of Gaylord denies that the priest was placed on administrative leave because of the sexual abuse allegations.
Below is a portion of a statement released to 7&4 News/UpNorthLive regarding the allegations:
Bishop Raica’s decision was NOT based on [the priest’s] allegations. The bishop’s administrative decision involves what should be private and confidential issues between a bishop and one of his priests.
The diocese added that there was an investigation into the priest’s allegations against the other priest.
The diocesan review board met and concluded that the allegation did not reach the level of credible and substantiated sexual misconduct.
Later, according to the diocese, the priest offered additional information that supported his complaint and the investigation was re-opened and is ongoing.