July 8, 2019

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DETROIT (AP) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said Sunday that it removed a prominent priest from public ministry after reviewing what it described as a “credible allegation” that he had sexually abused a child decades ago.

The Rev. Eduard Perrone was suspended from ministry Friday, a month after The Associated Press began asking the pastor himself, the archdiocese and law enforcement authorities about a former altar boy’s allegations that Perrone had groped him.

Archdiocese officials told Perrone’s congregation at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish during services Sunday that members of the local archdiocese review board found a “semblance of truth” to the accusations, but that they are maintaining a presumption of innocence.

Some parishioners expressed shock when they heard, and one woman walked out of the service to gather herself outside. After Mass, a number of people stopped at the back of the church to ask questions of two archdiocesan officials and pick up a written statement about Perrone.

The pastor is prohibited from representing himself as a priest or wearing clerical attire while the Vatican reviews the allegations, the archdiocese said in the written statement.

The statement also said the archdiocese had reported the allegation to local law enforcement and the Michigan attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office declined to comment last month, but it has an open investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in Michigan and charged five men who were priests with 21 counts of sexual misconduct in May.

The Detroit Archdiocese on Sunday added Perrone’s name to its list of dozens of credibly accused priests, many deceased. More than 140 religious orders and Roman Catholic dioceses have released similar lists. Most of those lists were either released or significantly updated since a Pennsylvania grand jury last summer detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse.

Perrone, who co-founded a nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii in 2002 to support priests facing allegations of abuse or other problems, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. At the rectory where he lived, a woman who answered the door said there was “no way” to reach Perrone and asked a reporter to pray for the priest.

Last month, Perrone denied any wrongdoing when the AP asked him about the allegations that years ago, he would invite altar boys to his mother’s lake house where he would wrestle with them in the water for hours. At times, the wrestling turned to inappropriate grabbing and groping, said a former altar boy who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to protect his privacy.

Perrone said it was the first he heard of any allegations against him.

“Never inappropriate touching,” he said. “I never ever would have done such a thing.”

He said other adults were always in attendance when they gathered at the lake house and everyone was “fully clothed.”

Perrone also denied allegations from two individuals that he served wine to minors, but then went on to describe offering wine to a child.