Lansing diocese cites 'credible allegation' against priest, removes 'faculties'
Lansing — Two days after surrendering its files to law enforcement, the Catholic Diocese of Lansing removed the priestly faculties of one of its senior priests citing “a credible allegation of sexual assault of an adult male which occurred decades ago,” according to a statement.
Bishop Earl Boyea on Friday eliminated permission for the Rev. Robert Gerl to publicly minister within the diocese.
"Among those permissions are: presiding or con-celebrating at Mass; hearing confessions; witnessing marriages; baptizing; anointing the sick and dying," a diocese statement said.
Gerl declined to comment when reached Monday by phone.
Gerl has been without an assignment in the diocese for “a number of years,” said spokesman Michael Diebold.
Diebold said Gerl’s file was among those surrendered to law enforcement last week, when authorities served search warrants at each of Michigan’s seven dioceses as part of Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse and cover-up.
Because of the ongoing probe, Diebold could not say what if any investigation prompted the removal of Gerl’s faculties or whether an investigation into Gerl was ongoing.
Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, could not comment because of the ongoing investigation.
Schuette in August began an investigation into all allegations of sexual abuse and assault by Catholic diocesan and religious order priests as well as any attempts to cover up those actions dating back to the 1950s in Michigan. The investigation was launched after a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealed hundreds of abuser priests who molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.
Schuette’s office has asked any victims or people with information about alleged incidents to contact investigators at Michigan.gov/CI or at (844) 324-3374.
Michigan's bishops have welcomed the investigation and said they will cooperate fully with authorities.
Prior to Schuette’s announcement, Boyea had said he would require a new outside review of the diocese’s handling of clergy misconduct in light of the Pennsylvania report.
Many of the dioceses have had agreements to share clergy misconduct files in place with local prosecutors since 2002. Several have independent review boards that investigate new allegations after law enforcement have reviewed the case. They've also implemented training, background checks and sexual abuse reporting procedures for more than 15 years.