Faith-based probation order led to teenager’s abuse by priest
After a 17-year-old Michigan teen had been ordered by a court to complete community service under the supervision of a Catholic priest – Fr Robert DeLand, above – he fell victim to sexual abuse by the priest.
DeLand, according to this report, was subsequently arrested late last month for sexually assaulting the teen as well as a 21-year-old man.
The 17-year-old assault victim, after reporting sexually predatory “grooming” behavior by DeLand to police, helped officers with an undercover sting that led to the priest’s arrest.
He has now filed a lawsuit against DeLand, Bishop Joseph Cistone, and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.
DeLand has been charged with assaulting the two at his home in Saginaw Township. Since then, the prosecutor’s office has received numerous tips related to alleged abuse going back to the 1970s.
Throughout his priesthood, DeLand, 71, has occupied a variety of high-ranking roles in the Diocese of Saginaw. At one point, which according to the diocese was between 1975 and 1980, DeLand was the diocesan vocations director – the priest in charge of recruiting and screening young men for the priesthood.
At the time of his arrest for attempt to commit criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and gross indecency between males, DeLand was the pastor of St Agnes in Freeland, Michigan and the judicial vicar for the diocese.
According to the lawsuit, DeLand showed the 17-year-old victim gay pornography and groped him as part of the “grooming” behaviours. The lawsuit, Linden v Saginaw et al, was filed on Monday in Michigan Eastern District Court.
Court filing indicates that DeLand:
Bought him an expensive ‘vape’ machine; invited the teen to his home to smoke; and made inappropriate physical contact … including back rubs, hugs and groping of the buttocks.
St Agnes has previously posted on Facebook many photos of DeLand with children, including one with the caption:
For teenagers, Father Bob DeLand is a lot like Santa Claus. He sees you when you’re sleepy. He knows when you’re awake…
At a press conference discussing DeLand’s arrest, an unidentified official said police were being “inundated” with complaints about DeLand going back 30 years.
Before his arrest, DeLand was on the board of an anti-child abuse organisation.
This is not the first time that abuse has occurred under Bishop Cistone’s leadership.
As an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, Cistone allegedly oversaw the shredding of documents containing the names of suspected pedophile priests and lied about it to a grand jury, according to court documents.
On March 8, the Diocese of Saginaw released a statement admitting the inaccuracy of it original claim that:
To the best of our knowledge, Father DeLand has not been subject to disciplinary action or accusations of priestly misconduct.
Saginaw Township and its neighboring Tittabawassee Township have assembled a team to deal with new tips and information relating to the priest’s abusive behaviour.