GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Victims of local pedophile Catholic priests on Friday welcomed the Michigan attorney general investigation into decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups at the state’s seven dioceses.
“It’s time. The time is up for the Catholic Church,” said William McAlary, 73, of Belmont. “It’s time everybody in this country knew what was going on behind the closed doors, and not just the victims.”
McAlary said he was an altar boy, just 12, when his priest molested him in 1958 at the boy’s family home in Ionia.
“I was sound asleep, I wake up and he’s molesting me in bed, and he was kneeling next to my bed,” McAlary said.
He said he didn’t report it to the church until more than 30 years later.
“Because it was trauma. I mentally blocked it for years,” he said.
The priest, Father Stanislaus Bur, was later moved across the state and has since died.
Bur was one of 14 priests identified as child molesters in the Diocese of Grand Rapids dating to the 1950s.
Four have died, one was deported, and the rest are either retired, were dismissed or no longer are allowed to present themselves as priests, according to the diocese.
The diocese spent more than $1 million in settlements and counseling for victims through 2002, but refuses to say how much it has spent since.
It says it hasn’t received a new allegation since 2002, and has set up programs to prevent and report abuse.
As for the AG’s investigation, Bur’s victim hopes it will lead to a full reckoning — revealing all pedophile priests and encouraging victims.
“All victims please come forward and make yourself known so we can see the depth of this abuse,” McAlary said.
One of six known victims of another pedophile priest, Father Dennis Wagner, didn’t want to be identified. He said he wants to forget the past and wasn’t sure he would cooperate with an investigation.
He was 13 and living in Coopersville in 1983 when Wagner molested him repeatedly while inner-tubing in Muskegon County, according to court records and police reports.
That led to charges of gross decency and a plea-bargained misdemeanor assault conviction. Wagner was placed on probation.
Wagner molested at least one boy after that, but wasn’t dismissed from the clergy until nearly 20 years later.
Wagner, now 69, is living in Norton Shores. On Friday, he refused to talk about the AG’s investigation.
“I don’t have any thoughts,” Wagner told 24 Hour News 8. “That was all taken care of 30 years ago. Thank you very much for coming out.”
Another of Wagner’s victims, molested in 1981, welcomed the AG’s investigation, though he knows nothing will happen to his attacker.
“Unfortunately whether I’d like to or not like to have something happen to him, it’s really of no consequence,” said the victim, who didn’t want to be named.
The real impact, he said, should be on the church.
“The church should really open up their records and their books, full disclosure on what they knew, what they didn’t know,” the man said. “You’re dealing with a secret society, an all-male society.
“I’m hopeful it actually leads to some concrete action, rather than just a little bit of face time to make somebody look good.”
Bill Schuette’s office says it started its investigation into the allegations in August, but only alerted 24 Hour News 8 to the investigation Friday when it partially denied a Freedom of Information Act request.
Spokeswoman Andrea Bitely told the Associated Press Friday the Michigan probe was prompted by a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that said an estimated 300 Roman Catholic priests there molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.
Friday afternoon, the Diocese of Grand Rapids issued a statement saying that it welcomed the investigation and would cooperate.
The attorney general’s office is encouraging any victims, their families or witnesses to report any crimes related to this investigation. Anyone who has been victimized by a member of the Catholic church can confidentially report the crime to the attorney general’s office online or by calling 844.324.3374 Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.