MI--2 accused in priest abuse case quietly move out of Michigan; Victims cry “foul”
For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016
Two accused church officials quietly move
One still works for an institution training priests
Victims’ blast “reckless secrecy” of Saginaw’ Catholic bishop
Investigation showed cleric “sexually harassed” a then-22 year old
Lawsuit says church official accused victim of seducing older priest
Two defendants in a civil abuse and cover up lawsuit involving a Saginaw priest have apparently moved out of state. A victims group is blasting the priest’s supervisor for “doing what bishops have done for decades: letting alleged wrongdoers quietly move away after being accused and work again among unsuspecting and vulnerable families.”
One of the accused, Trudy McCaffrey, still works for the church in Irene, South Dakota where she’s a "spiritual director" for Broom Tree Retreat, cultivating new priests. The other defendant, the alleged predator in the case, Father Denis Heames, now works for a San Diego California lawyer.
According to a Michigan newspaper, the lawsuit, filed earlier this year in Isabella County in Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain’s court, accuses Fr. Heames, McCaffery, the Saginaw diocese and St. Mary’s parish of “battery, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent supervision and vicarious liability” because Fr. Heames allegedly “abused his authority when he entered into a sexual relationship with a then-22 year old student in the fall of 2012, when he began acting as her spiritual counselor.”
In some states, it's a crime for a clergy person to have sex with a congregant. Advocates say it’s inherently abusive for “well educated, powerful priests, who have massive power over parishioners, to exploit that power for their sexual gratification, just like doctors can’t have sex with patients and therapists can’t have sex with clients,” according to David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Letting McCaffery and Fr. Heames “quietly” move is “reckless, deceitful and callous” and “endangers vulnerable young church members,” said Clohessy. “These deliberate and irresponsible decision violate, at least in spirit, the US bishops’ abuse policy which supposedly mandates ‘openness and transparency’ in clergy abuse cases. Bishops in San Diego, South Dakota and Michigan are taking big risks here.”
“We see no evidence that either of these moves has been publicly disclosed by Catholic officials,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “South Dakota Catholics should be warned about Ms. McCaffrey. If she ignored or concealed clergy sexual misdeeds once, or publicly attacked a suspected victim, we fear she’s apt to do so again. And of course if Fr. Heames committed sexual misconduct before, especially experienced no consequences, we fear he’s apt do to so again.”
An internal investigation found that Fr. Heames sexually abused the young student:
Here’s more information about the civil lawsuit:
Here’s more information showing McCaffery has moved:
She’s apparently also associated with a church group in Omaha.
Fr. Heames is a paralegal for attorney Richard McEntyre (619-221-0279) and claims, on his Linked In page that he moved to California for "family" reasons, making no mention of the lawsuit against him.
The SNAP leaders question the wisdom of church officials’ secrecy.
“This case may go to trial. Who knows what kind of damaging information about Ms. McCaffery, Fr. Heames or other church staff may surface? Do Catholic officials really think it’s smart to let two alleged wrongdoers quietly go elsewhere and let one of them keep working in the church?” asked Clohessy. “Imagine how jurors would react if they decide these two are guilty and learn about more misdeeds they may have committed since going to these others states.”
“For the sake of the alleged victim and the safety of their flocks, we beg these three bishops to at least warn the public about these two defendants,” added Dorris. “That’s the bare minimum a self-professed shepherd would do in this case.”
Beyond that, Clohessy and Dorris are urging the South Dakota retreat center and the San Diego law firm to consider firing or at least suspending the two defendants. The two bishops – Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, should do the same, SNAP says.
“It all boils down to a simple question: Why take the chance of another possible offense? Is that fair to the staff and priests at the South Dakota institution or Fr. Heames’ co-workers, clients and neighbors in California?” Clohessy asked.
A photo of Fr. Heames is here:
In June 2015, Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone put Fr. Heames on leave for "boundary violations" related to his priestly conduct, according to one newspaper. A grand jury report from 2005 states Cistone participated in the cover up of multiple cases of child sexual abuse.
In recent years, Fr. Heames may have also spent time in Canada and Pennsylvania.
The alleged victim, Megan Winans, is represented by Lansing attorney James T. Heos. The lawsuit also accusesMcCaffery of claiming that Winans seduced Heames and had “the spirit of Jezebel.
Fr. Heames also attended San Diego State University.
Former CMU priest named in Isabella County civil suit
By Susan Field, Morning Sun, February 17, 2016
Negligent supervision and defamation, including being labeled a “Jezebel” by an employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw are among the claims a former Central Michigan University student is alleging in a civil suit in Isabella County.
Megan Winans, who is suing former St. Mary’s University Parish priest Denis Heames, the Saginaw diocese and one of its employees, Trudy McCaffery, said in the suit that Heames coerced her into having a sexual relationship with him, then revoked an internship when the relationship ended.
Filed in Isabella County Trial Court, the suit is not set for any court dates but indicates . . .
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.