Retired Grand Haven priest defrocked over sexual abuse allegations

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A retired West Michigan priest has been removed from the priesthood, the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids says, after the church received allegations of sexual abuse that were deemed credible.

Pope Francis affirmed the dismissal of William Langlois. He served for years as pastor of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Grand Haven before retiring in 2016.

The allegations of abuse were reported to the diocese in 2018, it said in a Friday release. The abuse happened for seven years, from 1999 to 2006, the diocese said, starting when the victim was a minor and continuing into adulthood.

The diocese reported it to local authorities, who investigated the allegations with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. While that investigation was underway, Langlois was barred from public ministry even though he was already retired.

After the allegations were deemed credible, Grand Rapids Bishop David Walkowiak sent the investigation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That led to Langlois being defrocked.

With his dismissal, Langlois can no longer minister, celebrate the sacraments, wear clerical dress or present himself as a priest, the release said.

“It takes courage for survivors to share their story. I am appreciative this survivor came forward and I hope that this announcement will aid in the healing process,” Walkowiak said in a Friday statement. “As Bishop, I renew my profound apologies to all those who have suffered abuse in the Church. I continue my prayers and support for their recovery and healing.”

Langlois took a six-month leave of absence from St. Patrick-St. Anthony in 2014 after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a woman. It’s unclear if that has anything to do with the abuse allegations that led to his dismissal from the priesthood.

He had been a priest since 1974, serving at churches in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Coopersville and the church in Grand Haven.

News 8 reported on Langlois in 2012, when he was told to stop hugging children at his parish after a family sent an anonymous letter about concerns to the bishop (Walkowiak’s predecessor).

“It’s painful, it’s the world that we live in right now so we want to do the right thing,” Langlois told News 8 at the time. “We want them to realize that there is good touch, bad touch, boundaries, and we want their parents to reinforce that.”

Langlois marks at least the 15th priest from the Grand Rapids diocese to have molested children. In 2019, Target 8 identified 14 others who had assaulted at least 33 children since the late 1950s.

The release from the diocese urged anyone who suspects sexual abuse or has experience abuse in the Catholic Church to call the Michigan Attorney General’s hotline at 844.324.3374.

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“While we were ultimately not able to file criminal charges, we consider the Diocese’s decision to involve the Vatican and Pope Francis’ dismissal of William Langlois a measure of accountability,” Attorney General Dana Nessel’s spokesperson Lynsey Mukomel stated. “Our focus remains our ongoing clergy abuse investigations statewide and our pursuit of justice to offer some sense of relief to the brave survivors who have shared their stories in order to prevent future abuse.”

Mukomel refused to say why the AG’s Office declined to file criminal charges.

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