Diocese: Retired priest removed from ministry amid abuse claims

Wood TV 8, Michigan/August 14, 2015

Grand Rapids, Michigan -- A retired priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has been permanently removed from the ministry following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, according to a release posted Friday on the diocese’s website.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent notice to the diocese that Father Charles Antekeier, 79 — who retired in 2000 and served in several different West Michigan churches —  cannot “publicly present himself as a priest,” the release said.

The alleged victim notified the diocese about incidents that allegedly happened between 1984 and 1985 while Antekeier served at Saint James Parish in Grand Rapids, according to the diocese.

The diocese said Antekeier worked in the following churches throughout his career:

Ordained: 1962

1962: St. Charles, Cheboygan

1966: St. Patrick, Grand Haven

1966: St. Mary, Grand Rapids

1972: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Belmont

1977: St. James, Grand Rapids

1987: St. Francis Xavier, Grand Rapids

2000: Senior priest status (Retired)

The victim came forward in November of last year. That’s when a Diocesan Review Board, which includes retired judges and law enforcement officers, examined the case. The board found enough evidence to remove Antekeier from ministry. The decision was confirmed first by Bishop David Walkowiak and later by the Vatican.

While Father Antekeier will keep his pension, he cannot publicly present himself as a priest according to church policy.

In the release on the diocese’s website, Bishop David Walkowiak released the following statement:

“I want to express my deepest apologies to any children, young people and their families who have been abused by members of the clergy in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. While there are no words that can heal such wounds, I humbly ask for forgiveness for the pain and injury you and your families have suffered.”

The Diocese says they followed strict guidelines, removing Antekeier from ministry and are being open and transparent with the public. They also say they reported the situation to the appropriate civil authorities.

But the Grand Rapids Police Department, Kent County and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Departments and Michigan State Police say they know nothing about the case.

The Kent County Prosecutor Office says it’s the first they’ve heard of it.

A Diocese spokesman confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 the incident or incidents didn’t happen in Kent County, but wouldn’t say where. He claimed the statue of limitations has run out on the case.

That may or may not be true, according to Chief Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. But he can’t make a decision on a case he knows nothing about.

Are there more victims?

The diocese said that just one victim has come forward — and they don’t have any indication that there are others.

But Friday night, a woman reached out to 24 Hour News 8 and said one of her family members had also been sexually abused by Antekeier.

In this particular case, she said the abuse happened 18 years ago.

“The wounds of the victims of this type of abuse are deep and mostly unhealed and take years and years of dedicated counseling,” she said in a phone interview.

24 Hour News 8 isn’t releasing the woman’s name to protect the alleged victim.

“Hallelujah was our first thought, that finally there is justice in this world,” she said, after hearing of Antekeier’s punishment. “The church has taken this awful thing that was hidden in darkness and thrown great light on this.”

Some people, including some of Antekeier’s former parishioners, are supporting him.

24 Hour News 8 spoke with a priest who’s known Antekeier for decades. He said he didn’t know enough about the case to talk on camera, but said Antekeier was a spirit-filled man.

The woman who claimed Antekeier had abused her family member acknowledged that he was charismatic.

“He was able to use that charm and that persona to hide what he was doing and profiling victims,” she said.

The woman said her family did report it when the alleged abuse happened, but said the Catholic Church was very different 18 years ago.

“There wasn’t the transparency. The church today listens and responds, and that’s joyful news,” said. “ Others who may have been silenced in fear can feel somewhat vindicated and know that if they come forward they will be heard.”

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