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Sexual Abuse Allegation against Deceased Religious Order Priest Deemed Credible

Officials of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette have deemed credible a recent allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a deceased religious order priest from Belgium.

The allegation was lodged against Father Bernard (“Fr. Ben”) Van der Schueren, S.J., a priest of the Society of Jesus, commonly called the Jesuits. The complaint deals with an incident involving a boy that happened during July of 1989 when Fr. Van der Schueren filled in for a diocesan priest at St. Michael Parish in Marquette. Fr. Van der Schueren died in 2009 at the age of 86.

As soon as the allegation was received, diocesan officials immediately began following the Diocese of Marquette’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct in Ministry. In keeping with that policy, the complaint was referred to Jesuit leadership, in this case, the Chicago-Detroit Province.

In addition, the Office of the Administrator of the Diocese of Marquette informed the Diocesan Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People of the complaint, and the diocesan attorney reported the allegation to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office.

After the complaint was lodged, the Jesuits of the Chicago-Detroit Province initiated their safeguarding procedures for sexual abuse of minors in pastoral ministries and contacted the Flemish Jesuits in Belgium. The Flemish provincial superior has committed himself to full cooperation with the investigation. The Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits have taken charge of dealing with the accusations. They have contacted the victim/survivor of the abuse and have offered counseling and spiritual assistance.

On behalf of the Church, Kevin Branson, Diocesan Director of Ministry Personnel, offers his sincere apologies to the victim/survivor who lodged the complaint against Fr. Van der Schueren and any other victims/survivors who may have been harmed by him.

“Our first concern is always for the victims/survivors of abuse, and we pray that all of those affected by this situation and others like it will find healing and peace,” said Branson.

“If there are other victims/survivors of sexual misconduct by a priest, church worker or volunteer who have not yet made a complaint to the diocese, I encourage them to do so, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. We want to help them receive counseling and pastoral care on their journey toward healing.”

To find support and bring a complaint of sexual misconduct to the attention of the Diocese of Marquette, please do the following:

· Call the Diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, Sister Colleen Sweeting, toll free, at 866-857-6459;

· Call Kevin Branson, the Diocesan Director of Ministry Personnel, at (906) 227-9107 / 800-562-9745, ext. 107. If Kevin Branson is unavailable, call Father Francis Dobrzenski, the Diocesan Administrator, at (906) 227-9115 / 800-562-9745, ext. 115;

· Write to Kevin Branson, Diocese of Marquette, 1004 Harbor Hills Drive, Marquette, MI 49855. Please mark the letter “Personal and Confidential” and indicate the means of response desired (by phone, by letter or in a meeting)

The contact people above will also help victims/survivors bring their concerns to church officials outside the diocese if the sexual misconduct occurred elsewhere and they now reside in the Diocese of Marquette. Those who are unsure about bringing a complaint or would like further information should contact Kevin Branson as indicated above.

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