Search Warrants allow for Evidence to be removed from Saginaw Catholic Church

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SAGINAW, MI – On Thursday March 22nd, 2018, Police armed with search warrants raided three properties of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw following the recent arrest of Rev. Robert DeLand who is accused of committing sex crimes.Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption - Saginaw, MI

Rev. Robert DeLand, 71-years-old, of Freeland, was charged on February 26th, 2018, with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting two male individuals, ages 21 and 17-years-old. DeLand entered a plea of not guilty with the courts. The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw has suspended him.

The Diocese of Saginaw was made aware of the arrest of Rev. Robert (Bob) DeLand and his arraignment on criminal charges through the media on February 26th, 2018. Because of the criminal charges filed against Father DeLand, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, immediately placed him on administrative leave from active ministry.

Bishop Cistone has mandated that Father DeLand must meet all the obligations of the courts, including the critically important directive that he is to have no contact with individuals under 21, for the well being, safety and protection of our community and most especially young people. This prohibits Father DeLand from going on school properties and participating in school and parish activities and functions.

In addition, Bishop Cistone has informed Father DeLand that he must refrain from wearing clerical garb or presenting himself publicly as a priest. He must also refrain from the exercise of public ministry and must notify the Office of the Bishop of any change of location.

Those restrictions will remain in place throughout the entire criminal proceeding.

In accord with diocesan policy, an internal investigation will begin once the criminal investigation is completed, so as not to obstruct the criminal investigation.

Search warrants were executed at Cathedral Of Mary Of The Assumption in Saginaw, the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw offices in Saginaw Township, and Bishop Joseph Cistone’s home. Multiple boxes of documents and computers were removed from the three locations.

It is unclear at this time what evidence authorities are looking for. In a press release on March 1st, 2018, Bishop Cistone publicly expressed his commitment, on behalf of the Diocese of Saginaw, to cooperate fully with law enforcement in this matter.  However, the Saginaw County Prosecutors Office stated that the search warrants were executed after the diocese did not cooperate with authorities.

The Diocese of Saginaw released a statement concerning Father Robert DeLand on March 8th, 2018, after questions were raised by members of the media and members of the community, following the criminal charges filed against Father DeLand. In that statement to the media and public they provided the following information:

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

While this information was believed to be accurate based on a preliminary review, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, considered it imperative to conduct a further, in-depth study of Father DeLand’s files.

Upon thorough examination of these files, the Diocese can find no evidence of a previous accusation against Father DeLand by a victim nor someone with direct knowledge of sexual abuse of a minor. The Diocese provides this additional information from Father DeLand’s files:

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.

Father Deland, who was pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, as well as a judicial vicar for the Diocese of Saginaw, has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation in accord with diocesan policy.

The protection of children and youth is a priority in the Diocese of Saginaw. The Office of Child and Youth Protection is guided by a policy which includes areas that assist the diocese in efforts to provide preventive measures designed to keep all of the children and youth safe from harm now and in the future.

The policy also contains a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. Additionally, there are guidelines for reconciliation, healing, and accountability. The Diocese of Saginaw’s Policy for the Protection of Children and Young People can be viewed online at https://saginaw.org/child-and-youth-protection/office-child-and-youth-protection.

A second individual, who is a senior priest, was also placed on suspension but has not yet been charged. An allegation of sexual abuse against Father Ronald J. Dombrowski, 72-years-old, is being investigated.

The Diocese of Saginaw released a statement concerning Father Dombrowski:

A senior priest of the Diocese of Saginaw, Father Ronald J. Dombrowski, 72, has been suspended from priestly ministry by the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, as an allegation of sexual abuse against Father Dombrowski is being investigated. A self-identified victim, who was a minor at the time and is no longer a minor, was in contact with the Diocese on Thursday, March 15. The diocese shared this information with law enforcement.

Although nothing has yet been determined, as a precautionary measure, Father Dombrowski was immediately suspended from priestly ministry. He is to have no contact with individuals under 21. This prohibits Father Dombrowski from going on school properties and participating in school and parish activities and functions. In addition, Bishop Cistone has informed Father Dombrowski that he must refrain from wearing clerical garb, refrain from the exercise of public ministry, and may not present himself publicly as a priest while the allegation is being investigated.

Father Dombrowski most recently served as sacramental minister at Holy Family Parish in Saginaw, 1525 S. Washington Ave., Saginaw, 48601, where he celebrated Mass and the sacraments.

Father Dombrowski was ordained to the priesthood on January 22, 1972. Prior to ordination to the priesthood, he served as a deacon at St. Josaphat Parish, Carrollton, from May 1970 to September 1970; St. Joseph Parish, Auburn, from September 1970 to June 1971; and Sacred Heart Parish, Caro, from June 1971 to January 1972.

His first priestly assignment was as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption, Saginaw, from March 1972 to February 1974. He was appointed associate pastor at St. Stephen Parish, Saginaw, from February 1974 to July 1976, and associate pastor at St. James Parish, Bay City, from July 1976 to January 1978. He was appointed pastor at St. Mary of Czestochowa, Kinde, and St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Kinde, from January 1978 to July 1980.

He was administrator at Ss. Peter & Paul, Ruth, from July 1980 to January 1981. He was pastor of the following: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Vassar, and St. Bernard, Millington, from January 1981 to July 1990; St. Mary, Parisville, July 1990 to July 1994; St. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, Port Sanilac, July 1994 to July 2001; St. John Chrysostom, Forestville, August 1994 to July 2001; and St. Josaphat Parish, Carrollton, July 2001 to June 2013. He served as administrator of St. Matthew Parish, Zilwaukee, from July 2006 to July 2013. He served as sacramental minister at the following: St. John the Baptist, Carrollton, July 2006 to July 2013, and St. Matthew, Zilwaukee, July 2006 to July 2013.

Until being suspended from ministry, Father Dombrowski served as sacramental minister of Holy Family Parish, Saginaw, since July 2014. Father Dombrowski received senior priest status in July 2013

Michigan State Police, Tittabawassee Township Police and Saginaw Township assisted in the execution of the search warrants.

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