Attorney General Nessel announces arrests related to state investigation; three of six priests have ties to Detroit

LANSING — Five priests or former priests with ties to Michigan dioceses have been charged with 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct involving five separate victims in connection with the Michigan attorney general’s investigation into sexual abuse among clergy in the state.

During a news conference May 24 at the G. Mennen Williams Building near the grounds of the state Capitol in Lansing, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced her office had authorized charges against Timothy Crowley; Fr. Neil Kalina, PIME; Fr. Vincent DeLorenzo; Fr. Patrick Casey; and Fr. Jacob Vellian in connection with the investigation.

Nessel also announced a sixth priest, Fr. Lawrence Ventline, has had his license as a professional educationally limited counselor suspended by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs because of allegations of abuse that occurred outside the statute of limitations.

Three of the priests connected with Friday’s announcement — Fr. Kalina, Fr. Casey and Fr. Ventline — have connections to the Archdiocese of Detroit and had previously been restricted from ministry. Crowley and Fr. DeLorenzo are from the Lansing diocese, and Fr. Vellian worked in the Kalamazoo diocese.

Four of the five men who were charged have been arrested, while Fr. Vellian awaits extradition in India, Nessel said.

During the news conference, Nessel said the arrests were executed in coordination with law enforcement officials in several states, including Arizona, California and Florida, as well as Michigan.

“In the last 30 hours, more than a dozen members of our investigative team have been in courtrooms in Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee, Macomb and Berrien counties while other members of our team have been working with local law enforcement in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan — all in a carefully executed plan to take these charged defendants off the streets,” Nessel said.

The victims — four male and one female — were between the ages of 5 and 26 at the times the alleged abuses took place.

Fr. Kalina, a priest with the PIME Missionaries who spent time briefly at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township in the 1980s, is charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct — two counts of which allegedly occurred with a victim under 13 years old, and two when the victim was between 13 and 15, Nessel said.

“While he is no longer a priest, Kalina is now apparently a youth counselor running an organization called Operation High Hopes, that he apparently founded in an effort, we believe, to prey upon marginalized teenagers,” Nessel said.

Fr. Kalina, 63, was arrested May 23 in Littlerock, California.

As a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), a religious institute whose North American headquarters are in Detroit, Fr. Kalina served briefly at St. Kieran Parish and St. Ephrem Parish in Sterling Heights, both between 1984 and 1986, a statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit said.

Fr. Kalina left active ministry in 1993, and an allegation of abuse was brought against him in 2017, the archdiocese said.

“Per our agreement with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, we turned over the complaint to the Shelby Township Police Department. In addition, we turned over the complaint to the PIME religious order,” the Archdiocese of Detroit’s statement said.

Nessel said Fr. Casey, 55, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit who was pastor of St. Theodore of Canterbury and St. Damian parishes in Westland from 2012 to 2015, is charged in Wayne County with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct “for performing oral sex on the victim during confession while acting as the victim’s spiritual counselor.”

Fr. Casey was arrested May 23 in Oak Park.

The archdiocese said a complaint against Fr. Casey was brought forward in 2015, and “(w)e removed Casey from ministry at that time and entered into the canonical process appropriate for this allegation. That process remains ongoing and is pending in Rome.”

The complainant was an adult at the time of the alleged incident, the archdiocese’s statement said.

“While restricted from ministry, Casey is prohibited from representing himself as a priest, wearing clerical attire or exercising any form of church ministry. Like any cleric restricted from ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, he is monitored to ensure compliance with church restrictions,” the statement said.

Ordained in 1997, Fr. Casey also served as chaplain of Cardinal Mooney High School in Marine City (1997-2000); associate pastor of St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish in New Baltimore (1997-2000); administrator of St. Dominic and St. Patrick parishes in Detroit (2000-04); and administrator and later pastor of St. Thomas a’Becket Parish in Canton (2004-12). He also was administrator of Divine Savior Parish in Westland from 2011-15.

Fr. Patrick Casey
Fr. Lawrence Ventline

A third priest residing in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Fr. Ventline, “is alleged to have sexually assaulted a Michigan resident,” Nessel said, but his alleged crimes “were outside the statute of limitations, so he could not be criminally charged.”

Fr. Ventline, 70, who had a license as a professional educationally limited counselor, had that licensed suspended by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs after it was learned that he “is still actively taking on children as his clients,” Nessel said.

“His counselor’s license was summarily suspended last week by LARA, and we filed an administrative licensing complaint against him,” Nessel said.

A complaint against Fr. Ventline was brought to the archdiocese in 2016, the Archdiocese of Detroit said, at which time it was turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. The archdiocese was then authorized by county officials to move forward with a canonical review, and Fr. Ventline was then restricted from public ministry.

Prior to that, Fr. Ventline had not been assigned to full-time parish ministry for nearly 20 years, the archdiocese said. His last assignment was as administrator of St. Mark Parish on Harsens Island from 1996-97. Ordained in 1976, he also previously spent time at St. Raymond Parish in Detroit (1976-79), St. Rene Goupil in Sterling Heights (1979-81), St. Christine in Detroit (1981-85), Our Lady Queen of Peace in Harper Woods (1985-86), Madonna University (1986-87), St. Joseph the Worker in Lake Orion (1987-90), St. Anne in Warren (1992-94) and Our Lady of Sorrows in Detroit (1994-95).

While the archdiocese did not have authority to restrict Fr. Ventline’s counseling license, he was “prohibited from representing himself as a priest, wearing clerical attire, exercising any form of church ministry.”

“Like any cleric restricted from ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, he is monitored to ensure compliance with church restrictions,” the archdiocese’s statement said.

Crowley, 69, a former priest of the Lansing diocese who spent time at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, was charged with four felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Lansing, Crowley was removed from ministry in 1993 after an allegation was brought against him. Later, the Archdiocese of Anchorage “appointed Crowley as their chancellor, despite the Diocese of Lansing warning the archdiocese of these allegations,” the Lansing diocese’s May 24 statement said.

“After the adoption by U.S. dioceses of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in 2002, Crowley was removed from ministry in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. He has since been laicized (defrocked),” the Lansing diocese’s statement said. “In 2002, the Diocese of Lansing shared information with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office regarding Crowley; the prosecutor was unable to bring charges.”

Another priest of the Lansing diocese, Fr. DeLorenzo, 80, who spent time at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton, is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Fr. DeLorenzo’s alleged abuse involved a child victim, Nessel said.

He was arrested May 23 in Marion County, Florida.

According to the Lansing diocese, it received a complaint against Fr. DeLorenzo in 2002, after which then-Bishop Carl Mengling “removed the priest from ministry and forwarded the complaint to the Genesee County prosecutor. The diocese has requested that Rev. DeLorenzo be laicized (defrocked) and is awaiting a decision from Rome.”

Since then, the Lansing diocese has “invited victims to come forward and report abuse to civil authorities and to contact the diocese to receive assistance,” it said. Since 2002, seven additional complaints against Fr. DeLorenzo were received, the most recent of which were reported in May 2018 and January 2019.

In accordance with the diocese’s policy to report all complaints to law enforcement, the Lansing diocese “forwarded the May 2018 allegation to the Genesee County prosecutor and the Burton police,” the statement said. “The January 2019 allegation was also forwarded by the diocese to the Genesee County prosecutor and the Michigan Attorney General, who had started a state-wide investigation into clergy sexual abuse.”

Fr. Vellian, 84, a priest who spent time at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Benton Harbor of the Kalamazoo diocese and who now resides in Kerala, India, is charged with two counts of rape — one with a victim under the age of 16 and later with the same victim after age 16.

While Fr. Vellian has not yet been arrested, Nessel said, “we have located him and will be making efforts to extradite him.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel addresses the media May 24 with attorneys, agents and state officials who are involved with the investigation. 

According to the Kalamazoo diocese, Fr. Vellian was a “former visiting priest from the Archeparchy of Kottayam, India, of the Syro-Malabar Church, who served in the diocese in the early 1970s for one year.”

“We have fully cooperated with this ongoing investigation and will continue to do so,” the diocese said in a statement, while encouraging victims to contact the attorney general’s tip line. “As a Church, we continue to unite in our prayers for all survivors. We remain steadfast in our commitment to promote greater protection and safeguards of all people.”

Nessel said the state’s tip line to receive complaints of sexual abuse against clergy has received more than 450 tips during the course of the investigation. She added her office anticipates “many more charges” in the months ahead as state investigators continue to comb through thousands of files seized last fall from the state’s seven dioceses.

Nessel said the state’s team of 44 attorneys, special agents and Michigan State Police troopers have reviewed “5 to 10 percent” of the documents seized.

“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,” Nessel said.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Detroit offered its continued cooperation with the investigation.

“The Archdiocese of Detroit deeply regrets the pain inflicted upon victim-survivors, and offers continued prayers for their peace, healing and pursuit of justice,” it said. “We continue to cooperate fully with all civil authorities, in the hope that these partnerships may pave the way toward a future of greater trust and transparency. One sinful, criminal act, especially against God’s most vulnerable and trusting children, is unacceptable and one suffering soul too many. We remain committed to preventing sexual abuse against anyone – especially children and vulnerable adults.”

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or aginvestigations@michigan.gov. Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org, calling the toll-free, 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing vac@aod.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.


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