Standing outside the offices of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, survivors of sexual abuse demanded Thursday that church leaders publish the names of six priests who have been accused of improper behavior.
The priests in question currently or formerly served in the Kalamazoo Diocese, members of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said, and if the diocese wants to promote transparency, it must publish their names.
“More and more victims are realizing that that's what it takes to protect kids,” said David Clohessy, a member of the network. “That's what it takes to heal. And in Michigan, especially, we would beg, not just victims, we would beg witnesses, whistle blowers, anybody with any knowledge or suspicion of child sex crimes on the church to come forward now because the attorney general is doing an investigation.”
Ann Philips Browning said she was abused by a priest when she was a teenager.
"The church owes us transparency and for some reason we’re not getting it unless there’s legal involvement," said Browning.
She said the Attorney General's Office interviewed her as part of its ongoing investigation. She said she told the office there are many people afraid to share their stories of abuse.
"There are hundreds of survivors out there that are still struggling, that are still stuffing it, that still think it was their fault, that are still beating themselves up, that have probably left the Catholic Church," said Browning.
Survivors network members said the diocese should publish those names on church websites as well as the names of all other clergy members accused of abuse.
Responding to the group, the diocese released a written statement Thursday saying that it is promoting greater efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults. The diocese also said that information about the accused clergy has been publicly available for years and reported by media.
"We would simply say to [Bishop], you’re being reckless and irresponsible by keeping secrets about these men," said Clohessy.
Three of the six priests named by SNAP are deceased, but all worked at some point at a church in the Kalamazoo diocese.
The three priests named by SNAP who are deceased are Carl Anthony Peltz, Richard Ohlemacher and Thomas F. DeVita. DeVita and Ohlemacher were removed from ministry duties. The Kalamazoo Diocese, in 2003, released a statement saying an investigation of the accusations against Peltz, who had served in Parchment, Michigan, found no evidence to support the claims.
The others named by SNAP were:
- Gregory H. Poser, who was suspended from duties by his order, the Crosier Fathers & Brothers, in 2016. However, after the Ramsey County prosecutor’s office declined to file criminal charges in 2017, he was reinstated. The decision was reported in the Mille Lacs Messenger.
- Howard Weston, who, according to a March 2006 report from the Archdiocese of Chicago, resigned from the church in 1993. He was laicized in 2009, according to the list of clergy with substantiated allegations published on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
- Leonard Bogdan retired from the diocese of Kalamazoo in June 2000, according to the list of clergy with substantiated allegations published on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Survivors said the church hasn't done enough to hold accused priests accountable. They also encouraged survivors to share their stories.
Jack Ruhl, who attended the news conference, said his wife was sexually abused by a priest in Chicago. She said she was interviewed by media in the Chicago area about the alleged attacker.
"It’s extremely hard for abuse survivors to come forward," said Ruhl. "The abuse survivors, so often, think that they are the ones who are to blame because that is often what the priest will tell them."
"If you were hurt by a member of the clergy in any way we would beg you to find the courage and strength to wake your silence and tell someone you love and trust," said Clohessy.
The diocese said it's continuing its cooperation with the attorney general’s office in its investigation.