The Academy Award-winning movie Spotlight dramatizes a true-life investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The movie focuses on the Boston area but noted that similar abuse occurred worldwide. What about Ann Arbor?
Unfortunately, yes. A website dedicated to survivors of abuse, bishop-accountability.org, lists accusations against twelve priests in the Lansing Diocese. One, Rev. Timothy Crowley, served at Ann Arbor’s St. Thomas the Apostle.
According to a 2003 article from the Anchorage Daily News posted on the site, church officials learned in 1993 that Crowley had preyed on a boy for eight years. The abuse started in a Detroit-area parish when the victim was ten and continued during the priest’s subsequent assignments in Hillsdale and Ann Arbor, stopping only when the young man turned eighteen. Two years later, his girlfriend revealed the abuse to the church.
Confronted by then-bishop Kenneth Povish, Crowley resigned from St. Thomas. According to the Anchorage paper, Povish “shocked parishioners when he told them that Crowley committed ‘grievous misconduct of a sexual nature’ but offered no further explanation, except to say the victim did not attend their church.”
The Lansing diocese settled with the victim for $200,000 and assigned Crowley to a church treatment center; in 1995, he was transferred to an administrative position in the Anchorage diocese. Parishioners there learned of his history only in 2002, when American bishops adopted a “zero-tolerance policy” toward sexual abuse. When the Ann Arbor News contacted him the following year, Crowley described himself as retired.
No charges were filed because Crowley’s victim–whose name has never been published–didn’t want to pursue the case. But at the end of February, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported that another former Lansing diocese priest, James Rapp, had pleaded no contest to six counts of criminal sexual conduct committed when he worked at Jackson’s Lumen Christi High School in the 1980s.
Rapp faces a sentence of twenty to forty years in Michigan, but may not live to do time here: he is seventy-five and already serving a forty-year sentence for similar crimes in Oklahoma–where the church transferred him after learning of the Jackson abuse.