Detroit priest opens up about Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal

Allegations rocked Catholic Church

By Sandra Ali - Anchor/Reporter, Kayla Clarke

DETROIT - Sexual abuse revelations have rocked the Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States traveled to Baltimore last week for their first time meeting since an explosive grand jury report by the Pennsylvania attorney general that detailed decades of sexual abuse involving hundreds of priests.

The bishops left the meeting without taking any action. They were asked by the Vatican to stand down and wait until Pope Francis meets with church leaders from all over the world to discuss the abuse crisis.

A Detroit priest opened up to Local 4 about the scandal. The Rev. Stephen Pullis is the director of evangelization of catechesis and schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would start investigation allegations of sexual abuse and assault by Catholic priests dating back to the 1950s.

Submit information about the Catholic Church to the AG's office here.

The state investigation started in August and Schuette's office immediately encouraged victims to come forward; that's around the same time Pullis started hearing from parishioners.

"I'm hearing a lot of sadness and a bit of anger. I thought we would get more people that were really angry, but everyone who's come has come with a good heart to say, 'I'm disappointed, I'm hurt, but I still love the Catholic Church.'"

"We thought people had a lot of questions and we wanted to go to a place where it would be a little bit different to have those conversations than at a church or even at a church office."

"Some people have asked, wanted to know, the process that the church goes through when there's an accusation about a priest. Or, they want to know why this is happening now and sometimes they just want to talk."

But the conversations haven't been easy. Pullis admits he knows what's happening now is testing people's faith and he doesn't have all the answers.

"You know, for me personally, it, it hurts, right? To see these kind of wounds happening and to see this kind of brokenness even in the church is really hurtful."

"We need to put the right policies and procedures in place to make sure they don't happen again, for sure. But ultimately, it's a call I believe, to me, as a priest, and each of us in the church to be more faithful in Christ. You know, God gives us the tools and the gifts we need at every point in the history of church to respond faithfully to him.

"So, I just think it's my job as a priest right now is to trust in the lord and try to be a holy and good and an honest and trustworthy priest."

Pullis said he feels that starts with being more open with information and talking about the issues.

"We've been very forthright with all of the county prosecutors throughout the six counties of the Archdiocese of Detroit and we're trying to do our best. So, I can't speak intimately about those details, but I think the way we've understood as a society and as a church the need to be honest and transparent and forthright with people."

"It is disheartening and it does make me, as a priest, say I have to be committed to being a man of great integrity, so the first response it gives me is to say the church needs holier priests and that starts with me, right?"

"It can be easy to look around and say, 'This person should do this,' or 'They should do that,' I just know my first response is what can I do, what can Father Steve do and that response is to reach out to people and be willing to listen."

"To say that the church is trying in a way that I think is exemplary in so many areas of our local or our society, of our culture to say children will be protected here, this will be a safe place for children, the procedures/policies we've put in place now, I think are excellent, to say we are not going to tolerate this sin the future."

Pullis said even though the coffee conversations are a simple concept, they will continue to plan them as long as parishioners attend, at the same time as attorney general's investigation is well underway.

There are no deadlines or time limits to report sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer.

You can report abuse to the Archdiocese of Detroit by calling 866-343-8055.

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