Resolution of the 2011 Incident at St. Peter Parish

Aug 30, 2014
For more information contact:
Joe Kohn, Director of Public Relations

In 2011, the Archdiocese of Detroit became aware of the failure of the pastor of St. Peter Parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Father Michael N. Cooney, to report suspected abuse of a minor in a timely manner. The incident occurred in the final months of 2011 on St. Peter Parish property in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Initially, Father Cooney was suspended from office from February 10, 2012 to April 22, 2012. Subsequent to that action, as provided by Church law, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron appointed a panel of three canon lawyers/judges to conduct an independent review of the incident. With the panel’s findings now in hand, Archbishop Vigneron has taken the necessary steps to conclude this formal process.

Following a canonical (Church law) trial, a panel of judges has concluded that in a 2011 instance, Father Michael Cooney was negligent in performing his duties as pastor of St. Peter Parish, Mount Clemens, by failing to properly report the suspected abuse of a minor in a timely manner and failing to take proper measures to protect an alleged victim. It was the conclusion of the of the judges that although Father Cooney did advise a family member of the alleged victim to report the suspected abuse to civil authorities, he had the responsibility to— and should have— reported what he knew to authorities when he first learned of the suspected abuse.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron takes seriously his responsibilities regarding the protection of minors. He deeply regrets that this matter occurred and apologizes for it. Father Cooney has acknowledged his failure to take proper action in this instance and apologized.

Whenever a crime— as defined in church law— has occurred, some penalty must be given. Archbishop Vigneron has issued a personal rebuke to Father Cooney, required him to make a retreat, and to write letters of apology to the parish and to the family and others affected by the failure to report. There will also be a program to review with Father Cooney the full requirements of civil and ecclesiastical law in these matters. In determining these actions, Archbishop Vigneron has also considered the 24 years of priestly service of Father Cooney at St. Peter’s and the otherwise exemplary program of child protection in place at the parish. For his part, Father Cooney, a Detroit priest in good standing, has cooperated fully in the resolution of this matter.

The Archdiocese of Detroit takes these actions to insure the safety of children and to assure parishioners and the general public of its promise of to be faithful to the commitments made by the Catholic Bishops with the issuance and implementation of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

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