Catholics in Michigan are calling for a bishop to resign after police raided his house for not cooperating with an investigation into child sex abuse allegations. But before he was ever head of the Saginaw Diocese, he was accused of covering for someone who shredded documents containing names of priests suspected of child molestation in Philadelphia.
Authorities say Bishop Joseph R. Cistone (below), who has not been charged with a crime yet, wouldn’t cooperate in an investigation into Rev. Robert DeLand (known as “Father Bob”) for sexually assaulting two males, including a 17-year-old boy.
Additional allegations against DeLand and other diocese priests have poured in since he was charged criminally:
Since DeLand’s Feb. 26 arrest, numerous tips and allegations about further sexual abuse dating back as far as three decades have flooded area police departments, investigators previously said. Among the tips were allegations against other clergymen.
Another diocese priest, Rev. Ronald J. Dombrowski, was recently suspended by the diocese after they received a report he allegedly sexually assaulted a person when they were a minor. He has not been criminally charged.
Police say Cistone wouldn’t provide key details in their investigation, and they were forced to execute warrants on his home on March 22. They also searched the rectory at the Cathedral, as well as the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw offices, removing computers and files.
We don’t know what the police found in those seized documents and hard drives, but Cistone put out his own statement conflicting with the government’s narrative. He said he “has made a sincere effort to cooperate with law enforcement to date and will continue to do so moving forward.”
Considering Cistone was previously a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia Archdiocese who was accused of protecting a priest known for his “predilection for naked children,” I know who I believe.
Among other findings, the 2005 grand jury report alleges Cistone was given several updates in 1996 on efforts to silence a nun who tried informing parishioners about a priest’s past, particularly his “predilection for naked children.”
The year before, Cistone wrote a memo to the cardinal stating accusations of sexual abuse against a priest “has the potential of becoming a PR concern,” according to the report. That priest soon resigned but later went on to other posts within the church.
In 2012, a lawyer accused Cistone of misleading that grand jury by not acknowledging he witnessed the shredding of documents in 1994 that contained the names of priests suspected of child molestation.
Fortunately, some local Catholics are calling out Cistone for being a repeat offender and insisting that he step down from his position.
“He has no credibility,” said Mary Ureche, a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Saginaw Township. “The reason he’s here is because of the cover-up and shredding of documents in Philadelphia.”
Nathan Medina grew up worshiping at Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw. The 34-year-old said, among other options to rebuild trust, the bishop should resign.
“The Diocese of Saginaw needs somebody who can fix this, and I don’t think Bishop Cistone can,” Medina said.
These parishioners are right. At very least, Cistone must step down and be replaced by someone who can fully cooperate with authorities. Michigan deserves better.
(Screenshot via YouTube)