Diocese clarifies statements on DeLand, special investigative te - WNEM TV 5

Diocese clarifies statements on DeLand, special investigative team formed

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Robert DeLand (Source: Saginaw County Jail) Robert DeLand (Source: Saginaw County Jail)

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw has clarified previous statements regarding Father Robert (Bob) DeLand. This as the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s office announced the formation of a special investigative team that will look into allegations of abuse involving officials in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

The 71-year-old pastor was arrested in February and charged with two counts of attempt to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency between males; following an undercover investigation.

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Immediately following his arrest, the Diocese issued the following information regarding DeLand.

“To the best of our knowledge, Father DeLand has not been subject to disciplinary action or accusations of priestly misconduct.”

While the diocese said that information was accurate based on a preliminary review by Bishop Cistone, after further review on DeLand’s files, they have now released the following information:

A letter written by Father DeLand in 1992 to Bishop Kenneth Untener, who was Bishop of Saginaw at the time, referred to rumors damaging to Father DeLand’s reputation. In the letter, Father DeLand stated he took issue with the rumors and denied wrongdoing.  

Also, in 2005, the Diocese was called about a family member’s suspicion [the family member had no personal knowledge nor did she have knowledge of an allegation against Father DeLand]. She wondered whether her brother, who committed suicide in 1993, might have been molested by Father DeLand in the 1970's. In 2005, after an independent professional investigator completed a thorough assessment, the independent Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Robert Carlson, who was Bishop of Saginaw at the time, as well as the family agreed that the suspicion against Father DeLand was unfounded. 

The Review Board, established in 2003, acts as a confidential, consultative body advising the bishop in his assessment of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by priests or deacons, and in his assessment of a cleric's suitability for ministry. The Review Board is comprised of individuals with expertise beneficial to the protection of children, including the treatment of the sexual abuse of minors. The Review Board offers advice on cases, reviews on a regular basis the safe environment policies of the diocese, and recommends to the bishop any modifications, if appropriate. It is primarily comprised of persons who are not employed by the Diocese of Saginaw.

Following DeLand's arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office has announced the creation of a team, incorporating the Saginaw Township Police Department, Tittabawassee Township Police Department, Michigan State Police and various other state and federal agencies.

Since charges against DeLand were issued, police agencies have received a number of tips regarding alleged abuse that stretch from the 1970s to present day, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gaertner.

The investigative team will be looking into those tips.

“The investigation is not going to dwell on rumors,” Gaertner said. “We are going to follow the evidence and go where it leads us.”

If you have any information on alleged abuse happing in Saginaw Township can call Detective Scott Jackson at 989-791-7226, while those with information on alleged abuse occurring in Tittabawassee Township can call Detective Brian Berg at 989-695-9623. Anyone with information on alleged abuse occurring in other areas of Saginaw County or in surrounding counties can call Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Chris Siegert at 989-495-5555. 

Tips can also be sent to abusetips@saginawcounty.com

“We continue to encourage people to come forward,” Gaertner said. “We want to hear from you; your tip is important. It is worth the effort, regardless of whether it is anonymous. It is your choice, and we  respect that.”  

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