LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The state’s investigation into decades of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests has led to death threats against Attorney General Dana Nessel and is expected to lead to its first criminal charges soon, AG officials said.
The Attorney General’s Office told 24 Hour News 8 it is taking those threats seriously.
“The AG gets death threats,” spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said. “It makes you wonder, really? You doth protest too much.”
She wouldn’t say how the AG has responded to those threats.
“Steps are taken,” Rossman-McKinney said. “We are confident that once people see action coming out of the investigation that some of that will tamp down a little bit.”
That is expected within a couple of weeks with the investigation’s first criminal charges.
She wouldn’t say if the office would be charging priests or diocese officials who covered for them or both. She also refused to identify the dioceses.
The AG’s office, under Nessel’s predecessor, launched the Catholic Church abuse investigation last year, seizing records from all seven of Michigan’s dioceses.
They’ve found cases of abuse of children by priests dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, but also new allegations from this decade, Rossman-McKinney said.
“What we are finding is much more recent incidents, and those are of grave concern to us because it appears abuse is continuing,” she said.
Since February, the AG has received 160 new tips about priest abuse, now totaling 430 — some prompted by Target 8’s After the Fall investigation.
They also are investigating allegations of priests abusing vulnerable adults.
“Every call requires an investigation and interview. Is this on the level? Is this within the statute of limitations?” Rossman-McKinney said.
Target 8 revealed in February that 14 priests in the Grand Rapids diocese had molested at least 33 kids over the decades — most without consequences.
In Lansing, a dozen assistant attorneys general are working the cases, with help on weekends from 15 other assistants, on their own time, in what they call the war room.
“So grateful to the group we call the weekend warriors, who are coming in and going through all this material” — hundreds of thousands of documents seized from diocese offices, Rossman-McKinney said.
In some cases, she said, they are racing against the statute of limitations.
Many of the team members, including the leader, she says, are Catholic.
“It’s tragic, and I can tell you that what the weekend warriors see in the course of the day compels them to work even harder because what they see is horrific.”
In a statement to Target 8, Grand Rapids diocese officials say survivors have contacted them since the investigation began and that the diocese forwarded those reports to the AG. The diocese, however, says it’s not heard back from the AG about any allegations. The diocese says it continues to cooperate with the investigation.