MI--Diocese blames student for abuse she suffered; Victims respond
For immediate release: Thursday, April 14, 2016
In a stunningly mean-spirited move, Catholic officials are blaming a college student for the abuse she suffered at the hands of a charismatic, powerful and manipulative priest. http://www.cm-life.com/article/2016/04/diocese-response
And they make contradictory claims – that the girl was responsible for sexual contact AND that no sexual contact happened.
In a legal filing, Bishop Joseph Cistone of the Saginaw diocese blames Megan Winans for being sexually exploited as a young, devout college student.
We believe Cistone’s goal is to shame and deter others who were hurt by priests into keeping quiet. We hope his selfish effort fails. Shame on him.
It’s worth noting that college officials have already found Winans credible. A Central Michigan University investigation has found that the priest “engaged in sexual harassment” of Winans, then a teenager who he had counseled and hired.
Bishop Cistone still refuses to disclose Fr. Heames’ whereabouts.
Fr. Heames was removed from St. Mary's University Parish, after Megan Winans accused him of sexually exploiting her.
Shame on Fr. Heames for claiming his abuse of Winans was "a relationship between two adults.” And shame on Cistone for letting this deliberately self-serving and hurtful inaccuracy stand unchallenged, then essentially repeating it. These are well-educated men. They know that no Catholic, especially not a teenager, can genuinely ‘consent’ to sex with a man who she’s been led to believe, since birth, is God’s representative on earth and who can forgive her sins and help her achieve eternal life, and a man whose bishop holds him out publicly as being a safe, celibate shepherd.
And shame on Fr. Heames for questioning if “someone is exploiting the system in order to harass another individual.” Again, this is self-serving. It’s an attack on a victim. It’s designed to deter others who have been hurt by Fr. Heames from speaking up like Winans has.
We applaud Winans' courage while we deplore the hurtful comments and self-serving secrecy of Cistone and Fr. Heames.
For about two years, Fr. Heames of St. Mary’s University parish manipulated, deceived, hired and supervised a student named Winans. For about a month, Cistone kept silent about Winans’ lawsuit against church officials, which was filed Jan. 14.
Shame on Fr. Heames for abusing his position of power and trust, as both priest and employer, to prey on a devout, vulnerable student.
Shame on Cistone for keeping the case quiet for weeks. His secrecy is problematic and wrong because hours and days are crucial in a sex abuse case. Every minute a predator's crimes or misdeeds are kept secret gives him and his allies time to destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses and discredit whistleblowers.
We suspect Fr. Heames has hurt other vulnerable students families with similar clerical misconduct. So we urge Cistone to aggressively reach out to others who may have seen, suspected or suffered Fr. Heames’ hurtful misconduct.
Many know about child molesting Catholic clerics. But few realize priests abusing vulnerable adults is as or more widespread but still deeply hidden. It’s always wrong and hurtful for doctors to have sex with patients, therapists to have sex with clients and ministers to have sex with congregants. That’s especially true in Catholicism, where parishioners are taught, from birth, to respect and trust priests as holy celibate men who can forgive sins and get them into heaven.
In 17 states, it’s a crime for a cleric to have sex with a congregant.
So let no one be misled: this was NOT an “affair.” It was shrewd, subtle, selfish manipulation by a highly educated, cunning predator who took advantage of the prestige afforded by the Roman collar to satisfy himself and exploit a trusting young woman.
We commend Winans for having the wisdom to understand that she’s been severely hurt. We commend her for having the strength to step forward. And we commend her for having the compassion to expose Fr. Heames as a predator so that others might be spared the pain she’s endured.
We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds by Fr. Heames or cover ups by Cistone will be inspired by Winans’ courage.
No matter what courts or church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions – especially in the Saginaw diocese – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
NOTE – More information about Cistone’s terrible track record on abuse and cover up, see our website or BishopAccountability.org
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Saginaw diocese, St. Mary's motion for lawsuit to be dismissed
By Sydney Smith | April 14, 2016
After a lawsuit was filed by a Central Michigan University student in January, attorneys for the Saginaw Diocese and St. Mary's University Parish claim there is no "sufficient information" to confirm or deny multiple counts against them and former St. Mary's priest Denis Heames.
Both the church and the diocese, represented by Masud Labor Law Group in Saginaw, requested all accusations in the lawsuit be dismissed. DeWitt senior Megan Winans filed the lawsuit on Jan. 14, asking the court to consider whether she was abused by Heames, who was removed from St. Mary's in July, during her work as a "media intern" at the church from 2012-14.
The lawsuit claimed . . .
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.
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.