MI-- College finds priest sexually harassed teenager

For immediate release: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])

A Central Michigan University investigation has found that a priest “engaged in sexual harassment” of a teenager who he had counseled and hired.



The cleric is Father Denis Heames. His boss, Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone, refuses to disclose Fr. Heames’ whereabouts.

Fr. Heames was removed from St. Mary's University Parish, after a brave Central Michigan University student, 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. 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.

Let me repeat what SNAP director David Clohessy said about this case a few weeks ago: A Saginaw priest is being sued for sexually exploiting a college student. We applaud her courage while we deplore the secrecy of Saginaw’s bishop.


For about two years, Fr. Denis Heames of St. Mary’s University parish manipulated, deceived, hired and supervised a student named Megan Winans. For about a month, Saginaw Bishop Joseph 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 Bishop 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 Bishop 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 Megan 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 Bishop Cistone will be inspired by Winans’ courage. We hope every person who has knowledge or suspicions about this betrayal or similar clergy betrayals will come forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing.

(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)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747[email protected])


Internal investigation finds priest sexually harassed student

By Sydney Smith | Published 23 hours ago

Before Father Denis Heames was removed from St. Mary's University Parish, the Central Michigan University student he was having an affair with told a faculty member about their relationship.

That conversation launched a sexual harassment investigation through the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE).

Though the office states it “endeavors to issue a determination” within 60 days of formally launching an investigation, its look into Heames’ behavior began in August 2015 and was completed last month.

Heames was named in a lawsuit filed Jan. 14 in Isabella County Court. Heames, along with St. Mary's, the Diocese of Saginaw and his spiritual director, Trudy McCaffrey, are accused . . .

Read full article here

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