The Michigan Attorney General Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Gaylord was released to the public on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Shortly before the release, the priest and deacon files that were held by the Attorney General’s Office since 2018 were returned to the Gaylord Pastoral Center. Of the 28 clergy named in the Attorney General’s Report, three priests are in active ministry.
Bishop Walsh states: “Having consulted the Diocesan Review Board at a long and intense meeting on January 22, I took time to absorb the complex realities discussed at our meeting, reviewed files more thoroughly and prayerfully discerned outcomes.”
Today, Bishop Walsh announces the following changes:
Rev. Raymond C. Cotter is restricted from presiding at any public celebration of Mass effective immediately. He will be allowed to celebrate Mass privately, present himself as a priest and respond to requests for limited priestly ministry (i.e., Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Sacrament of Reconciliation). Father Cotter continues to be a retired priest with no assignment in the Diocese of Gaylord.
Rev. James K. Gardiner is restricted from presiding at any public celebration of Mass effective immediately. He will be allowed to celebrate Mass privately, present himself as a priest and respond to requests for limited priestly ministry (i.e., Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Sacrament of Reconciliation). Father Gardiner, a retired priest, is relieved of his assignment as Sacramental Minister of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Mackinaw City. A new priest will be assigned to serve as the Sacramental Minister for the parish.
Rev. Donald R. Geyman will undergo an assessment. Pending the outcome of the assessment, and determination of a safety plan, Father Geyman will continue in his current assignment as Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Traverse City.
Bishop Walsh further explains: “I am fully aware of the weight of the decisions made for each of these three priests, their families, those whom they have served, those who were affected by their moral failings and the Church at large. While some of the moral failings were in the distant past, I had to ask a pressing question: 'If these situations occurred today, how would I respond?' I am painfully aware of the brokenness in our humanity and my own sinfulness. No one is perfect. God’s mercy is always in the mix, as is God’s justice. Given the circumstances, these decisions reflect my best effort to apply both mercy and justice in these three cases. Moving forward, let us be confident that all will be sustained by God’s grace and live under God’s Providence.”