Former Michigan Catholic priest has pleaded guilty again to sex crimes involving children

Gary Berthiaume, 79, who was accused of sexually assaulting three teenage boys in the 1970s, took pleas on Monday to a trio of charges and now likely faces as long as 15 years in prison. The Michigan Attorney General’s office said the former Catholic priest agreed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and also pleaded no contest to one count of gross indecency.

Berthiaume was originally charged last year with assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1977. In June, AG Dana Nessel’s office added two more charges after more victims came forward with accusations against the former priest. At the time of the assaults, Berthiaume worked as a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wyandotte and then later at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington.

What is most disturbing to us about this case and what should be of the utmost concern to churchgoers is that this was not Berthiaume’s first time in front of a judge. According to the watchdog group BishopAccountability, Berthiaume was convicted of abusing two children in Detroit in 1978, served six months in jail, and then, incomprehensibly, was transferred by the Catholic Church to the Cleveland Diocese where he predictably offended again.

We loudly applaud the work and the convictions that have resulted from the Michigan Attorney General’s office investigation into sex abuse by Catholic clergy. Secular investigations are the most effective and indeed probably the only way to provide a small measure of justice for abuse that has been going on unabated for decades. These deep-dive inquiries also show the systemic cover-up by Church officials. No one knew more about these crimes, and no one did less to protect children, than the Catholic dioceses and religious institutions themselves.

The Michigan AG’s office also issued a statement and update on its clergy abuse investigation. A staggering half a million documents remain to be reviewed. We are confident the remaining files will unearth even more secrets that have been hidden for years and we hope they will lead to more justice being served against those who perpetrated and enabled these crimes. We encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse by clergy, nuns, brothers, lay employees or volunteers in the Catholic Church in Michigan to provide that information to the investigative team. Reports can be made to the AG's website or by calling 844-324-3374

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