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First conviction in Michigan’s 2019 clergy abuse investigation

Michigan’s recent investigation into clergy abuse has resulted in its first conviction.

Rev. Patrick Casey, one of six priests charged over the summer with varying severities of sexual abuse, pleaded guilty in October to one count of misdemeanor aggravated assault, the state’s Department of Attorney General announced. Casey was initially charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, facing accusations he had sexual contact with a 24-year-old male who came to him for spiritual guidance in 2013.

The plea deal means Casey, who was at the Archdiocese of Detroit, faces up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

Among the six priests charged this summer, Casey faced the least-severe accusations. Four of the others were charged with multiple counts of second- or first-degree criminal sexual conduct, while the fifth faces two charges of rape. In those five cases, all the survivors were underage at the time of the abuse.

Stories of clergy abuse may continue to come out

People often think of clergy abuse as something that happened a long time ago. Many accusations in high-profile cases detail incidents that occurred back in the ‘50s or ‘60s. While statistics from Georgetown University show a decline in incidents of reported abuse from the 1970s onward, that does not mean clergy abuse has not happened in recent years.

Michigan’s attorney general, when announcing the charges over the summer, described these cases as “just the tip of the iceberg,” noting at the time her team had gone through 5-10% of the documents they had. They believed hundreds of additional abuse survivors may remain in Michigan.

Because it can take many years, even decades, for survivors to feel comfortable discussing what happened, there is little reason to doubt the attorney general’s estimation.

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