Michigan Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Fighting for Survivors of Child & Adult Clergy Sex Abuse
If you or someone you love were sexually abused by a member of the Catholic Church in Michigan, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and a financial recovery of your damages.
Thanks to a series of sweeping investigations into sexual abuse within Michigan Catholic churches, survivors across the state are stepping forward to file civil lawsuits. These claims concern abuse committed by hundreds of credibly accused priests and clergy members in all Michigan Catholic dioceses dating back decades and focus on holding the Church accountable for covering up abuse.
At Levy Konigsberg, our sexual abuse team is known for helping survivors fight for justice. We’ve recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients and have taken on some of the nation’s most powerful institutions. If you have questions about a potential case, our Michigan Catholic Church sexual abuse lawyers want to help.
We serve Catholic Church sex abuse survivors across Michigan and offer FREE and confidential consultations. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online to speak with our Michigan clergy sexual abuse attorney.
What is Clergy Abuse?
Clergy abuse refers to the misconduct or wrongdoing committed by members of the clergy, which includes individuals such as priests, ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders. This abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviors, but it often involves sexual, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, or psychological harm inflicted by a member of the clergy upon individuals under their spiritual care or authority.
The most well-known form of clergy abuse is sexual abuse, where clergy members exploit their positions of trust and authority to engage in inappropriate or illegal sexual activities with minors or vulnerable adults. However, clergy abuse is not limited to sexual misconduct; it can also include actions such as financial exploitation, emotional manipulation, spiritual coercion, and other forms of abuse of power.
Clergy abuse is a serious and deeply troubling issue that has had significant social, psychological, and legal implications in many communities. Cases of clergy abuse have led to lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, investigations, and widespread discussions about accountability within religious institutions. Many religious organizations have implemented policies and procedures to prevent and address clergy abuse, and there have been efforts to support survivors and provide resources for healing.
Investigations Show Pervasive Clergy Sex Abuse Problem in Michigan Catholic Churches
The scope of sexual abuse within Michigan Catholic churches has been documented by several sweeping investigations, including one being conducted by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office that was initiated in 2018, and numerous criminal and civil filings involving accused priests.
While the state’s primary investigations are still ongoing, it has already revealed that hundreds of priests and clergy members in all seven Michigan dioceses sexually abused hundreds of victims over the course of decades. Investigations have also found evidence that church leadership worked to conceal and cover up abuse, protect accused priests, and keep survivors silent.
Here are details about the recent investigations and criminal cases involving sexual abuse with Michigan Catholic churches:
On January 8th, 2024, the Michigan Attorney General's Office released its second report on clergy sexual abuse, focusing on the Diocese of Gaylord, detailing numerous allegations of abuse, and addressing cases where statutes of limitations or the death of priests prevented criminal charges. According to the report, approximately 85% of the alleged incidents of sexual abuse against minors and adults occurred before 2000, with the largest number of allegations related to incidents in the 1970s. The attorney general's report on allegations in the Gaylord Diocese is the second related to its statewide investigation of Michigan's seven dioceses, which began in October 2018.
- In June 2023, former Flint-area Priest Vincent DeLorenzo was sentenced to a year in jail and probation after pleading guilty to a single count of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct. DeLorenzo was originally charged with seven felonies involving two victims but pleaded guilty to only one charge connected to his sexual assault of a 5-year-old boy following a funeral service for the victim’s family member in 1987.
- In October 2022, Michigan AG Dana Nessel released a report on sexual abuse within the Diocese of Marquette, the first of seven reports that will chronicle sexual abuse allegations in each of Michigan’s Catholic dioceses. The report names 44 Marquette priests accused of sexual abuse or grooming behavior dating back to the 1940s, with a significant number of the allegations dating back before the 1980s. While most of the accused priests are deceased, two of the 12 living priests have been charged criminally. This includes Father Aaron Nowicki, who was arrested in connection to a child trafficking operation in 2021, and Father Gary Jacobs, who was convicted in 2022 for crimes committed in the 1980s. Two other priests from the diocese, Father Terrance Healy and Father Norbert LaCrosse, were convicted of sex crimes in 1987 and 1991.
- In October 2020, officials from the Michigan AG’s Office released preliminary findings from the first two years of its investigation. At that time, investigators had identified 454 accused priests and 811 victims, and had filed criminal charges against 11 clergymen. The 2020 AG report noted that victims and accused clergy were found in all seven of the state’s dioceses, with the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Dioceses having the most.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Michigan?
In Michigan, civil sexual abuse lawsuits are subject to a legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. When the statute of limitations expires, victims cannot file claims or recover compensation.
According to Michigan Compiled Law 600.5851b, a person who experienced events during their childhood can initiate a legal case for those incidents at any point before reaching their 28th birthday or within three years of becoming aware of the abuse and recognizing a link between an injury and criminal sexual misconduct, whichever is later. As a result of these provisions, numerous individuals who were subjected to abuse as children now have the ability to seek compensation as adults for those past incidents.
While Michigan’s current laws limit the time to file a sex abuse lawsuit, there is growing momentum for an expansion of the civil sexual abuse statute of limitations. In fact, a package of proposed bills is now pending in the Michigan legislature. If passed, these measures would give survivors of child sexual abuse until the age of 52 to file civil claims and create a temporary lookback window for survivors to file claims over abuse that occurred at any time in the past.
Given that many of the Catholic clergy abuse victims were minors who were abused decades ago, these pending measures could potentially open the door for numerous survivors to step forward and file claims, including claims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations.
At Levy Konigsberg, our sexual abuse team is working with a growing number of sexual abuse survivors to help them evaluate their eligibility for filing claims against Michigan Catholic dioceses both now under current laws and in the future should these measures be passed.
Do I Have a Sexual Abuse Case in Michigan?
As information about the scope of clergy sex abuse within Michigan’s Catholic churches comes to light, and as reports from the Michigan AG’s investigation are released, more victims are stepping forward to explore their options for legal action.
At Levy Konigsberg, our Michigan Catholic church sexual abuse attorneys have extensive experience litigating civil sexual abuse lawsuits and are available to help you evaluate your eligibility.
While every case is different, you may have a potential claim if:
- You were sexually abused as a child or an adult by a priest, Church volunteer, or other member of the Catholic Church.
The abuse involved a clergy member from any of Michigan’s seven Roman
Catholic Dioceses. These Michigan churches have been subject to sex abuse
of children and young men complaints:
- Diocese of Marquette
- Diocese of Gaylord
- Diocese of Saginaw
- Diocese of Grand Rapids
- Diocese of Kalamazoo
- Diocese of Lansing
- Archdiocese of Detroit
It is important to note that there is no requirement for your abuser to have been criminally convicted to file a claim. In fact, you can still pursue legal action in civil court even if your abuser was found innocent in a criminal case or never criminally charged.
Can I File a Lawsuit if My Abuser is Deceased?
Yes. Civil sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church focus on holding church leadership accountable for failing to prevent, stop, and appropriately respond to sexual abuse committed by its priests and clergy.
For this reason, your abuser does not need to be alive to file a claim – an important point considering that many of the accused priests identified by Michigan authorities are deceased.
Who is Liable for Catholic Church Sexual Abuse in Michigan?
Determining liability for Catholic Church sexual abuse cases in Michigan, or any jurisdiction, can be complex and depends on various factors including the specific circumstances of each case. Liability may involve multiple parties, including individual clergy members, supervisors, the local diocese or archdiocese, and even the broader Catholic Church institution.
Here are some parties that could potentially be held liable:
Individual Clergy Members: If a specific clergy member is found to have committed sexual abuse, they can be held personally liable for their actions. This can include criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
Supervisors and Superiors: If it can be demonstrated that higher-ranking individuals within the Church hierarchy were aware of the abuse and failed to take appropriate action to prevent it or report it to authorities, they may also be held liable. This could include bishops, archbishops, and other officials who had a duty to supervise clergy members.
Diocese or Archdiocese: The local diocese or archdiocese may be held liable if they were aware of the abuse and failed to take appropriate action to prevent it, report it, or remove the abusive clergy member from contact with parishioners. This can be based on principles of negligence, vicarious liability, or other legal theories.
The Catholic Church Institution: In some cases, the broader Catholic Church institution could be held liable if it can be demonstrated that there was a pattern of covering up abuse or facilitating its continuation across multiple jurisdictions.
Schools, Organizations, and Programs: If the abuse occurred within the context of a Catholic school, organization, or program, liability could extend to these entities as well, especially if they failed to implement proper safeguards or ignored reports of abuse.
Recoverable Damages for Sexual Abuse by the Catholic Church
In a Michigan clergy sexual abuse claim, if you are successful in proving your case, you may be eligible to recover various types of damages.
Some common types of damages that could be sought in a clergy sexual abuse claim in Michigan include:
Compensatory Damages: These are intended to compensate you for the actual harm you've suffered as a result of the abuse. They can include:
Medical Expenses: Costs related to therapy, counseling, medical treatment, and other healthcare needs resulting from the abuse.
Therapy and Counseling Costs: The expenses associated with ongoing therapy and counseling to address emotional and psychological trauma.
Lost Wages: If the abuse has affected your ability to work or caused you to miss work, you may seek compensation for lost wages or diminished earning capacity.
Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages meant to compensate you for the physical and emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish you've endured due to the abuse.
Emotional Distress: Compensation for the emotional harm you've suffered, including anxiety, depression, and other psychological distress.
Punitive Damages: In some cases, if the defendant's conduct is particularly egregious or malicious, the court may award punitive damages. These are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.
Legal Fees and Costs: If you prevail in your lawsuit, you may be entitled to have your legal fees and court costs covered by the defendant.
Loss of Consortium: If the abuse has significantly impacted your relationships with family members, you may be eligible for compensation for the loss of consortium or companionship.
Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806
If you are seeking legal advice or considering legal action regarding Catholic Church sexual abuse in Michigan, it's crucial to consult with an attorney from Levy Konigsberg who specializes in this area of law. We can provide you with accurate and up-to-date guidance based on the specifics of your situation and the applicable laws in Michigan.
Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including millions in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and provide the firepower they need to fight back against powerful institutions like the Catholic Church.
If you have questions about pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a Michigan Catholic diocese over abuse that occurred when you were a minor or an adult, we’re available to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.
Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.
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