Lansing diocese deems credible abuse allegations against deceased Catholic Bishop of Fargo

According to the statement, the first victim was approximately 12-years-old in 1964 when then-Father Sullivan subjected him to inappropriate touching and uninvited sexualized conversations. This pattern of behavior continued over the next two years. The second victim was approximately 11 to 12 years-old in 1966 when Sullivan inappropriately touched him. All incidents occurred at the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Lansing where Bishop Sullivan resided at the time. 

The investigation was launched in July 2020 after receiving an allegation of abuse against Sullivan from the Michigan Department of Attorney General. In the course of the diocesan investigation, led by a private investigator with law enforcement experience, the second allegation against Sullivan emerged. 

The Diocese of Lansing previously received an allegation against Bishop Sullivan in 2002. At the time, the diocese deemed the allegation to be “not credible.” In light of the recent allegations, the Diocese asked its private investigator and the Review Board to reconsider that allegation. The Review Board concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the allegation appears to be false or true. 

“We are grateful to Bishop Sullivan’s victims for coming forward and sharing their stories. They have displayed great courage and dignity throughout the entire process – they have our gratitude, admiration and prayers,” said William Bloomfield, General Counsel of the Diocese of Lansing.

Bloomfield told CNA that the diocese “recognizes that it can be very difficult, and can take time, for victims to come forward with an allegation of this sort. Even if the accused cleric is deceased, the Diocese investigates and forwards the allegation to the Review Board. This is for the good of victims — for their healing and so they can be heard. When the accused is deceased, and hence unable to defend against the allegation, the Review Board factors this into its deliberations.”

A native of Kalamazoo, James Stephen Sullivan was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lansing in 1955. Following parish assignments in Flint, Lansing, and St. Joseph, Father Sullivan served as private secretary to Bishop Joseph Albers (1891 – 1965) and also his successor, Bishop Alexander Zaleski (1906 – 1975). Father Sullivan was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Lansing in 1972. In 1985 he was appointed Bishop of Fargo. 

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