LANSING, MI (WLNS) – As the Michigan Attorney General’s Office continues to look into allegations of sexual abuse by priests across our state, many members of the church are hoping the process is open and transparent, so they formed a coalition to make sure that happens.
St. Joan of Arc Coalition for Church Transparency and Safety is a group of church members from several different local parishes who have come together in light of recent events surrounding priests in the Lansing community and nationwide.
The group’s mission is in the name. They want to keep the church environment safe, stay true to their faith, and hold individuals accountable.
On Tuesday, its members took one of many steps toward that mission, by delivering a letter to Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea, his superiors, and several others requesting answers.
A spokeswoman for the group, Karen Currie, sat down with 6 News to tell us more about what it says.
The three-page letter begs for more transparency on three separate issues. One of them deals with the recent departure of two priests at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and St. John Church and Student Center.
6 News reached out to the Diocese of Lansing for comment on this story. Michael Diebold, a spokesperson for the Diocese, said he’s checking with Bishop Boyea to find out if he’s received the group’s letter.
Diebold did not offer any further comment.
Sexual harassment allegations were filed against Father Mark Inglot the first week of September.
The bishop launched an immediate investigation and deemed the allegations “credible” and placed Inglot on administrative leave. 6 News has learned through multiple sources that it was another priest who came forward with the allegations.
Father Inglot has since resigned from both parishes and asked Bishop Earl Boyea for an extended leave of absence from ministry to continue therapy.
Currie said people within the church community still have questions about what may or may not have happened, but they can’t seem to get them answered.
“People are angry and they’re hurt and they’re not getting answers so they’re acting in the only way they know how and it’s either to walk away, to express anger, to stop tithing,” Currie said. “What we’re asking for in this coalition is join us, be with us, and advocate for the truth and advocate for the love in a peaceful methodology.”
Currie said she wants to make clear that the group is not against the Catholic Church.
“We’re a group of people that want to be able to continue to celebrate the holy Eucharist, to honor our dear lord Jesus Christ, but in an environment of transparency and safety,” she said. “We cannot stay remaining in our churches, remaining in our schools with things the way they are now. We have to stand up for change.”
According to the letter, the group wants more information on the external audit Bishop Boyea said he plans to have done, which will focus on how the Lansing Diocese handled allegations of sexual abuse in the past.
The group wants to know the name of the firm that will conduct the audit, whether the Diocese has a relationship with that firm, when it will begin, how long it’s expected to take, and if the current investigations by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office will delay the process.
The letter also asks Bishop Boyea to look at more than just potential misconduct by clergy members, but also faculty, coaches, staff, and administrators within the Lansing Diocese.
“We are aware of two cases of misconduct by two diocesan high school coaches from 2015 and 2017,” the letter said. “We believe that these diocesan employees put diocesan students at risk by improper handling of these incidences.”
Currie said the coalition has learned information surrounding these cases and that some of them are “adult to adult” and some are “adult to minor.”
“We need to expand the range of the investigations,” she added.
In the letter, the coalition is requesting that Bishop Boyea disclose results from the investigations of the two cases involving the coaches and the actions taken by the diocese in response to them.
“Please confirm that zero tolerance was taken in these two cases, please disclose if there have been other similar investigations that have not been made public, please provide the diocese’s safety protocol for handling issues of misconduct, including sexual misconduct, committed by diocesan faculty, coaches, staff, and administrators,” it said.
The letter also refers to “indexes” that were submitted with the letter, but they were not shared with 6 News.
The final request for information is related to Rev. Mark Inglot and the sexual harassment allegations against him.
“Bishop Boyea, we would like disclosure of any and all misconduct investigations involving former pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish (East Lansing, MI) Fr. Mark Inglot,” the letter said. “We have reason to believe that you had knowledge of Fr. Mark’s unchaste lifestyle prior to your September 11, 2018 statement announcing his administrative leave.”
The letter continues: “We are deeply concerned that younger parochial vicars assigned to Fr. Mark’s parish were not properly protected. We are witnessing the pain and suffering the Church has born by your brother bishops as some looked away or chose not to speak during Cardinal McCarrick’s rise and reign of abuse. We are fearful that our seminarians and more newly ordained priests do not have access to pastoral compassion or adequate protection of their sacred, honest, and holy priestly faculties.”
The coalition wants to know when Bishop Boyea will be releasing the results of the investigation involving Inglot and what protocol(s) are in place to “nurture and protect” seminarians, newly ordained diocesan priests, as well as parochial vicars from abuse.
Currie said that if the church wants to continue teaching people about the Catholic faith, she believes it’s equally important to do it honestly.
“We’ve all witnessed that pushing things under the rug, it’s not going to work anymore,” she said. “People may need to be held responsible. That’s what we’re teaching our children every day. If you do something wrong, you need to admit what you’ve done wrong.”
According to Currie, there are “multiple situations” that have occurred in recent years within the Lansing Diocese and minimal information has been shared.
“It’s fostering an environment for predators to continue to victimize other individuals because it seems there is a greater level of protection right now for predators within this Diocese within the Catholic Church then there are in other organizations,” Currie said. “As a Catholic, as a Christian, it’s deplorable.”
Currie and members of the coalition believe that the Catholic Church and schools should be places of love and safety, which is why the overall goal of the coalition is simply this:
“To receive the truth in its entirety, and when I say entirety, I’m not referring to specific details that may not be appropriate in order to protect victims,” she said. “But, we need the full story.”
The St. Joan of Arc Coalition for Church Transparency and Safety is asking that Bishop Boyea respond to their letter by the end of this liturgical year.
In September, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced that it launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and assault of children in all seven dioceses in Michigan.
To date, the office said it has received more than 150 tips through its hotline it created for people to submit confidential information related to the investigation.
Information can be submitted through a designated website, by calling a hotline at 844-324-3374, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay with 6 News for updates on this story as it develops.