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Group that advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse is critical of Michigan court decision

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Michigan Court of Appeals ruling this week is being criticized by a national group that campaigns against sexual abuse by priests. The court ruled that a west Michigan minister could not be charged for failing to report suspected child abuse.

In 2009, a woman asked the minister’s advice because she suspected her husband of abusing her daughters. But it wasn’t until another incident in 2011 that the minister convinced her to report the suspected abuse.   The pastor's attorney says no initial report was made because the allegations were sketchy.

Prosecutors said the minister should have reported the suspected abuse at the outset.

But the Appeals court ruled the minister is protected by a law that ensures the confidentiality of confessions and counseling by clergy.   The decision upheld rulings by lower courts.

David Clohessy is the executive director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He’s critical of the appeals court’s decision.

“We as a society need to be making easier, not harder, to catch those who commit and conceal child sex crimes,” says Clohessy, “This ruling moves in the opposite direction.”

Clohessy fears clergy who themselves are abusing children may see the ruling as a ‘legal loophole’ to hide their crimes.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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