SNAP Leaders Urge Michigan and California AGs to Investigate Fr. Lawrence Fares

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have written today to the top law enforcement official in California and Michigan, urging them to investigate an abusive catholic priest and the way that church officials in Detroit and San Francisco hid the allegations against him.

In July of 2019 the Detroit Archdiocese was informed of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Fr. Lawrence Fares dating to his early days in Detroit. But despite the promises of the Dallas Charter, it does not appear to us that Fr. Fares was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Detroit while the investigation was ongoing. What is most troubling about this is that the accused clergyman continued working in a California parish until at least April of 2020, as reported in The Detroit News.

SNAP is urging Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and California Attorney General Rob Bonta to use the power of their offices to investigate this situation, determine if any criminal laws were broken, and to pursue punishment and justice if so. We firmly believe that one of the reasons the abuse scandal has continued to engulf the Catholic Church is because enablers of abuse are rarely if ever punished for their aiding and abetting of abusers. We hope that these attorneys general will be able to investigate this situation and work to make both California and Michigan safer for children and parishioners.

A copy of the letter sent by SNAP is below.

Dear Ms. Nessel and Mr. Bonta,

We are leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are writing to you today regarding disturbing information that has come to our attention concerning Fr. Lawrence Fares, a retired priest from the Archdiocese of Detroit. As near as we can tell, the cleric has been residing within the territory of the Archdiocese of San Francisco since November of 2018.

In July of 2019 the Detroit Archdiocese was informed of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Fr. Fares from the early days of his participation in the Archdiocese, which we understand was reported to law enforcement in Michigan.  The priest began working in the Detroit Archdiocese in 1969 and was incardinated in 1977.

Later that same year another allegation was “heard” by the Archdiocese, although as far as we know, there is no public information as to when this allegation was made or when the abuse was alleged to have occurred. Fr. Fares was finally restricted from ministry only in January of this year.  

Despite the promises of the Dallas Charter, it does not appear to us that Fr. Fares was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Detroit while the investigation was ongoing. What is most troubling about this is that the accused clergyman continued working in a California parish until at least April of 2020, as reported in The Detroit News. Although the post on the website for St. Peter Parish in Pacifica, on which The Detroit News relied, has since been removed, we have attached a screenshot recovered by a media source in California.

We think it behooves both of your offices to investigate this situation carefully. For example, does the date of the second allegation explain Fr. Fares move more than halfway across the country after decades in Michigan? Did the Archdiocese of Detroit fail to inform the Archdiocese of San Francisco about the July, 2019, accusation, or was it San Francisco who failed to act to protect California children?

Michael Bott also received an email from the Archdiocese of San Francisco that said that the Archdiocese received a letter of good standing from Detroit when Fr. Fares arrived out west in November of 2018 and that he passed a background check. Of course, unless Detroit had already received an allegation against the clergyman before his departure, this would not be unexpected.

However, to make matters even more confusing, an email goes on to say that San Francisco has no information about Fr. Fares after April 30, 2019, three months before the first allegation against the priest was received by Detroit. Of course, this contradicts the information from the Pacifica parish said that Fr. Fares had been working there for “several months” in April of 2020.

The shuffling of abusive clerics from one diocese to another was part of the reason why the Catholic clergy abuse scandal went undetected and has remained unabated for so many years. We hope that you will look closely at this sequence of events, and determine if the Church in this case was once again protecting its reputation and assets at the expense of young, innocent lives.

Sincerely,

Leadership of SNAP

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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