While this is yet another of scores of articles I’ve written over the last 40 years about pedophile priests who have been convicted for their crimes in Michigan, this story actually contains the words of the victim.
Fr. Timothy Crowley
(Photo: Tempe Police Dept.)
The occasion for this news report is the Nov. 8 sentencing of former Michigan priest Timothy Crowley, 74, for unfathomable sex crimes he committed against a minor at an Ann Arbor parish. He was sentenced to one year in prison, five years of probation and slapped with a multitude of restrictions on his behavior.
For me, this is a very big and important story, since I’ve spent 40 years as a journalist tracking this whole mess. I vividly remember the first time I heard of this case in 1995, when I was applying for a reporter’s position at the Ann Arbor News. It was only a few blocks from where, for years, Crowley repeatedly raped and abused his victim.
In the banter of the interview I had with the newspaper editor in charge of hiring, the editor said he was present when Lansing’s Bp. Kenneth Povish explained to the parish why Fr. Crowley was suddenly removed as pastor. I will never forget the bewildered look on his face, bordering on anguish, when the editor said the bishop gave no hint of Crowley’s heinous crimes when he addressed the parish.
I’ve followed the Crowley case ever since — for 28 long years. I think the whole story of his crimes and how he got away with them should be known by all faithful Catholics in Michigan and beyond.
I spent four hours on Nov. 8 at the Washtenaw County Trial Court to observe the sentencing of Crowley for his crimes. The hearing lasted almost two hours, but more time was spent waiting in the long hallway outside the courtroom with at least two dozen other people somehow connected to the sentencing.
I had interesting conversations with some of the crew from the attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case. I even spoke to Crowley’s attorney, who, 20 years ago, managed to get State Police charges dropped against Crowley.
I expected a bureaucratically correct hearing in the courtroom. These often last only 15 or 20 minutes. The well-publicized plea deal was previously agreed upon by the prosecutor and the defendant and undersigned by the judge. Additionally, there is always time scheduled for a “victim’s statement” and then a stereotypical apology from the perpetrator. After that, the judge delivers the final sentence, which is almost always exactly what the world knew was coming.
The simple story of what took place is contained in the press release from the attorney general’s Office of Communications, which, at 146 words, hardly tells the whole, or even part, of what happened to the victim.
The Victim’s Statement
But the real story here is what the victim said. It is as effective a summary as any of what is wrong with the sex abuse cover-up by members of the Church and the many enablers of abuse at every level, even in the courts and legislatures.
The victim’s own words highlight the actual abuse and how it continued to affect him for decades afterward. His words help readers better understand the ever-present scourge of homosexuality and the intrinsic pedophilia and ephebophilia that go along with it.
What follows is the full text of the eight-minute statement from the victim, who is now more than 45 years old. His willingness to testify is the only reason the notorious pedophile and former priest Timothy Michael Crowley is being held accountable, albeit over 40 years after he began sexually abusing the victim as a 10-year-old student at a Catholic school in southern Michigan. The abuse included gang rape, oral and anal sex, and it persisted for eight years.
My commentary is interspersed within the victim’s text, as are relevant links to articles and documents that provide more detail for readers to pursue. In accordance with standard practice in American journalism today, the names of victims of sex abuse cases in litigation and police reports are not published.
Victim: Your honor, my name is [redacted]. It is past three years since I was approached by the attorney general’s office. They informed me they were going to reopen the sexual abuse case by the former priest, Fr. Timothy Michael Crowley. I was appreciative and also resentful because they were opening a closure in my life that I don’t feel comfortable speaking of.
This case is long and complicated, as it spans a 42-year period from 1982 to 2023. Perhaps the best summary of what was going on prior to Nov. 2003 was published by the Anchorage Daily News, where Crowley was chancellor of the archdiocese — I’ll explain more on that in a moment. It is noteworthy that, as far as I can tell, there is no Catholic publication that has published anything approaching the kind of detail found in the Daily News article.
The Michigan State Police declined to prosecute Crowley in 2003, citing the statute of limitations as the primary reason. Thus, Crowley no doubt thought he was safe and beyond the reach of the law for the next 15 years living in Tempe, Arizona.
Washtenaw County Courthouse
In 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the prosecution of pedophiles and challenged the 2003 State Police decision to not recommend Crowley for prosecution.
When the victim says he had “closure,” he means he thought there wouldn’t be accountability for Crowley’s crimes, and he had tried his best to accept that reality in 2003.
A Michigan judge dismissed the charges in October 2019, thwarting the attorney general’s effort to prosecute Crowley by claiming they were outside the statute of limitations for sex abuse. Nessel appealed and won in June 2022. Another hearing before the state Supreme Court took place and a trial was set for August 2022. Crowley pleaded guilty a day before the trial, and sentencing was then set for Nov. 8, 2023.
Victim: This matter has perplexed the world. For the Catholic Church, this is not the first time this issue has come up. Speaking with the investigator, he assured me I would be helping other victims come forward. Being a male, I was reluctant to even tell my story. This man has done unfathomable things to me — gang-raped me with one of his buddies.
When the Michigan Court of Appeals reinstated the case against Crowley in June 2022, it issued a 14-page decision that contained horrifying details about the abuse Crowley and at least one other person committed against the victim. The victim had testified that the abuse continued until he was more than 18 years old.
Victim: The Catholic Church has assisted him [Crowley], helping him through the process — relocating him to avoid prosecution.
Long-time Michigan journalist Michael Betzold wrote in the Ann Arbor Observer about how Lansing Bp. Kenneth Povish declined to explain to parishioners exactly what led to Crowley’s removal as pastor of St. Thomas parish in Ann Arbor:
Later that summer of 1993, bishop Kenneth Povish appeared at Mass at St. Thomas along with the attorney for the Diocese of Lansing. The prelate told parishioners that Crowley had been sent away for “grievous” sexual misconduct. He tried to put people’s minds at rest. He did not go into specifics.
For example, and most pertinent to recent developments with Crowley, is the statement issued in August 2023 by the diocese of Lansing’s public relations director, David Kerr, upon Crowley’s conviction on sex charges.
In that statement, Kerr wrote that in 1993, when the victim accused Crowley of sex abuse, “Crowley was duly removed from ministry by the late Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing (1924–2003).”
Betzold explained that Crowley was not “duly removed from ministry.” When Crowley “resigned” his post at St. Thomas in 1993, he was sent to a Church-approved treatment center in Alma, Michigan, pronounced “cured” after a year there, and shipped off to Alaska, where he was not only permitted to say Mass, but also served as the chancellor for the archdiocese of Anchorage.
Victim: I have joined several outreach groups and the story is like a cut and paste [of others’ experiences]. Speaking with other victims, it’s almost like a playbook. I inquired about a meeting with the pope. The response was “the best you are going to get is a cardinal.” Nobody wants to address this issue. No one wants to fix the issue. There is the Michigan legislative body — Miss Brixie [state Rep. Julie Brixie] is trying to get a program through the legislature which keeps getting stalled.
I am beyond words. I mean, I could give you graphic details about what this man has done to me. I was a former Catholic, raised — schooled — at parochial schools. My mother has written you a letter; it’s obviously still in the mail somewhere. I hope you will have a chance to review that down the road.
My anxiety is returned, but through the roof. I am active in counseling again. I was a police officer for 18 years. I have seen the other side of the envelope.
I was very dismayed with the district court when they dismissed the case and then alluded to the fact that after the age of 16, that I was the person wanting to do stuff like this. I don’t know if the court ever heard of “grooming” — conditioning. The defendant plied me with alcohol, cigarettes, gave me rides in his sports cars, had Garfield hanging out the window. I don’t think that I am the only one this person has affected, but there are certain limits that people will go to; I mean, I’m still reluctant. I have come to terms with what happened, but this is very difficult for me. Whatever judgment you give or sentence to this gentleman to — or person or whoever you are going to call him — he will have to answer to the Ultimate down the road.
I’d like my childhood back [choking up] because I know things probably would have been different. I’ve tried to be a good example for people. I’ve given back through the fire service, law enforcement. I’m currently a U.S. postal worker. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for anyone, but I don’t trust people anymore. I have never reached anger. My therapist said, “You may never reach it.” But I hope the court, the Michigan Legislature, and the Vatican will take action because this is horseshit. This should not go on to children.
My mother hates herself. I live in the woods. I’m antisocial. I’ve had two messy divorces, both of them basically blamed me for being a part of this. One threw a video camera at my head and told me I liked having sex with men. The other told me she had three or four boyfriends.
I have been through enough. I want my break. I am tired of giving. I want something for [victim’s name, redacted] and other people that can’t have a voice to come forward. I want to let them know that it’s all right to step up to the plate, but with the legislation we have on the table now, no one is going to wait around for four years. There is no reason that case should have been dismissed in the first place. The appellate court upheld and did their job. The Supreme Court also did their job. Unfortunately, it falls on your shoulders now, and I appreciate your time.
It’s been a long road. That’s all I have.
After the victim spoke, Crowley was asked by the judge if he would like to make a statement. He simply stated that he was “so sorry and remorseful for the grief and pain.”
Crowley, not the victim, was protected by at least four bishops, likely dozens of chancery priests and public relations officials in Lansing. The true nature of his crimes was kept hidden from the media and thousands of ordinary parishioners. Crowley is finally facing some justice for his actions, but there are more who share responsibility with him.