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Review: Diocese of Lansing failed to review '90s abuse allegation

When a 27-year-old man wrote to Rev. Pat Egan at the Diocese of Lansing 29 years ago, he was clear. Egan, the man said, sexually assaulted him during a boxing training session. The diocese was told of the allegation, and Egan denied it. Then, the diocese did nothing.

Now, after nearly three decades and a more recent accusation against Egan, the current leader of the diocese is apologizing.

Inaction, then another accusation

The survivor in the case mentioned above wrote that letter in February of 1990, according to a report from the Lansing State Journal. Despite the Diocese of Lansing being made aware of the accusation against Egan, records show there was no investigation. Nor was any action taken against the priest.

By the time the Diocese of Lansing gave authorities information about the incident in 2003, it was too late. Prosecutors could not bring charges due to the statute of limitations.

In 2014, another individual made an accusation against Egan. The man, in his early 20s, said Egan had asked him to hit different parts of his body during a boxing session, including his genitals, and became “sexually excited” while this occurred. The diocese responded to this allegation with an investigation, and banned Egan from boxing. In 2018, after learning Egan continued to box, the diocese revoked Egan’s priestly faculties and extern status.

Now, after the release of an external review, the diocese’s leader is publicly apologizing for its original inaction.

“I am deeply sorry for the Diocese’s past failure and all should know that the allegation would have been handled differently today,” said Bishop Earl Boyea.

Adults and clergy abuse

When people think of clergy abuse, they often consider children first. But many survivors were adults when the assault occurred. One news report called adults the “overlooked victims of clerical sexual abuse.”

This abuse often comes after an individual goes to a religious leader for spiritual guidance or counseling. According to one expert, the perpetrators often find adults going through a difficult period in their life, and offer counseling in increasingly private locations in order to isolate their target. They then use this power position as a religious authority to pressure survivors into the abuse.

Some states have laws prohibiting clergy from engaging in sexual contact with someone who comes to them for spiritual guidance or aid, even with consent. Michigan is not one of those states, though the legislature considered such a law in 2017.

“If a clergy is counseling a parishioner, they should come under the same law as mental health counselors. They’re not allowed to touch their patients sexually,” said Sen. Rick Jones at the time. “It’s very common for clergy to do different counseling and the parishioner is in a very vulnerable position.”

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