2 priests put on leave amid sex abuse claims

Detroit Free Press/August 23, 2004
By Laura Potts

Just days after Catholic officials in Detroit said they were working to resolve cases of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors, two more priests were put on administrative leave Sunday amid allegations of abuse.

The Rev. Timothy Murray, pastor of St. Edith parish in Livonia, and the Rev. Michael Malawy, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Maybee, each are accused of sexual misconduct with an underage boy, said Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Neither Murray nor Malawy could be reached for comment Sunday. The allegations against the priests, who are restricted from public ministry, date to the early years of their ministry. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office declined to investigate the claims because the statute of limitations has expired, McGrath said.

The Archdiocesan Review Board, which received the complaints in the spring, commissioned an investigation.

"We were able to come to the finding that we consider the allegations to at least have substance," McGrath said.

He declined to comment on where or when the sexual misconduct was alleged to have occurred.

Malawy, 49, was ordained in 1981 and served as associate pastor at St. Florian in Hamtramck. He later served at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth; Divine Child in Dearborn; St. Alphonsus in Dearborn; St. Peter in Mt. Clemens, and St. Aloysius in Romulus He also served as a chaplain at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus. In 1997, he went to St. Joseph, but has been in an out-of-state, substance-abuse-treatment center since May, McGrath said.

Murray, 54, was ordained in 1977. He then served at St. Dorothy in Warren, St. Veronica in Eastpointe, St. Linus in Dearborn Heights, St. Raphael in Garden City and St. Martin de Porres in Warren before becoming pastor of St. Edith in 2000.

On Sunday, a letter from the Detroit archdiocese was read to parishioners at St. Edith, telling them that Murray had been placed on administrative leave, said youth minister Colleen Misiak. On Tuesday, the archdiocese will hold an information and support session at the church, she said.

"I think it was a little shock and probably a lot of sadness," Misiak said. "Nobody knows the bottom line or where it's coming from. People have to go home and just think about it."

Malawy, pastor of St. Joseph, was listed on the church's Web site as a youth minister. George Cousino, who is studying to become a deacon, said he worked closely with Malawy and found the allegation "hard to believe."

"I doubt it's true," he said. "He's just not that kind of guy."

The Rev. Robert Bauer, who has been serving as the administrator at St. Joseph since May, said the officials from the archdiocese addressed the congregation Sunday and offered assistance. About 250 families belong to the parish, Bauer said.

"The church is concerned both for the alleged victim as well as the priest," said Bauer said.

Earlier this month, Catholic leaders announced that they are organizing special church courts to resolve old cases in which accused priests want to be reinstated.

Some Catholic priests who were removed from the ministry because of sexual abuse allegations will be able to contest their removals in canonical trials. The trials will be private, but the results will be made public. Bishop Walter Hurley has said the church hopes to resolve the cases by the end of this year.

Since 2002, U.S. Catholic bishops have pledged a zero-tolerance policy, removing any priest credibly accused of abusing a minor for sexual purposes. In metro Detroit, 23 priests have been accused and removed from ministry since early 2002, although the Vatican reinstated one man earlier this year, the Rev. Brian Bjorklund, a former Navy chaplain now in California.

McGrath stood behind the church's efforts to investigate and remove priests accused of sexual abuse, calling them "as fair and as thorough as possible." He declined to comment on how the church was alerted to the accusations against Malawy and Murray.

"We have our process, and when it's tested, it works," he said. "It's very sad when these things happen but we do have policies and procedures to deal with this and, as difficult as this is, that's what we have to do."

But David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said those who have been victimized by clergy should "call law enforcement, not church officials."

"I think that many bishops desperately want to convince the flock that this is an old problem. But this action reminds us all that the church will never be fully free of child molesters," Clohessy said. "As long as victims stay silent, nothing changes. But when victims speak up, at least there's a chance for prevention and justice."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.