SAGINAW, Michigan, September 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest who served on the board of an anti-child abuse organization and was the judicial vicar of his diocese pleaded no contest to six felonies and a misdemeanor related to a sexual assault on a 17-year-old boy.
That priest is Father Robert DeLand of the Diocese of Saginaw, who was arrested for the gay sex assault in February 2018 as the result of a police sting. Fr. DeLand is the former vocations director of that diocese – in charge of recruiting young men to be priests – and volunteered at public school events.
The first assault occurred August 7, 2017, according to police, and Fr. DeLand also assaulted a 21-year-old male.
Fr. DeLand now faces a year in jail. His no contest plea was part of a deal not to go to trial, avoiding a potentially much longer sentence. He has yet to be sentenced and is out on bail.
The 17-year-old victim has filed a personal injury lawsuit (Linden v. Saginaw et al) against Fr. DeLand, who he says showed him homosexual pornography and groped him. Saginaw’s Bishop Joseph Cistone and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw are also defendants.
“A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but it is treated as such at sentencing. A no contest plea is common in Michigan cases in which civil litigation is underway,” ABC 12 explained.
Before his arrest, police monitored Fr. DeLand, the former pastor of St. Agnes parish, for months after a 17-year-old and his parents came to them with a complaint about DeLand’s alleged predatory behavior. The boy had been ordered by a court to do community service under Fr. DeLand.
ABC 12 reported the charges to which Fr. DeLand pleaded no contest as follows:
– gross indecency between males and attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing injury involving the 21-year-old victim.
– two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury, one count of delivery of an imitation controlled substance and furnishing alcohol to a minor involving a 17-year-old victim.
– attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury involving the other 17-year-old victim.
St. Agnes is now run by a female “pastoral administrator.” According to its bulletins, some Masses there have up to 12 lay people distributing Holy Communion.
Fr. DeLand’s bishop’s connections to sex abuse cover-up
On March 22, 2018, police raided the home of Bishop Cistone, his diocesan offices, and his cathedral rectory, saying Cistone and the Diocese of Saginaw weren’t fully cooperating with law enforcement’s clerical sex-abuse investigation.
“Inside sources claim the raid was based on suspicion that the diocese may have been destroying evidence, as the bishop and diocese remain the subject of criminal investigation for possible cover-up of priestly sex abuse,” Church Militant, whose studios are less than two hours away from Saginaw, reported at the time. “Church Militant has learned that the diocese was in the process this week of turning over priestly personnel files to their attorneys, and that the chancery was occupied with sorting through documents and evidence pertaining to the criminal probe.”
As an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia – a position to which he was appointed in 2004 – 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. (Cistone was originally ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.)
“Six years ago, Cistone was accused of misleading a grand jury by not acknowledging that he witnessed the shredding of documents that contained the names of priests suspected of child molestation in 1994 while he was serving as a church official in the Philadelphia area,” MLive.com wrote of that incident.
Cistone’s name is not mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report that has shaken the Catholic Church this summer. That report detailed sex abuse committed by more than 300 priests across six dioceses and the Church’s systematic cover-up.
Abuses committed by Philadelphia priests were not part of this summer’s grand jury report. The grand jury reviewed over half a million internal Church documents from the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.
“I … reaffirm my commitment to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in any investigation of clergy or diocesan representatives,” Bishop Cistone said after the grand jury report was released. His statement did not mention his stint in Philadelphia or what he was accused of aiding there, nor did it mention the March 2018 police raid on his house.
Follow LifeSite's new Catholic twitter account to stay up to date on all Church-related news. Click here: @LSNCatholic