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Tempe man among 5 former Michigan priests charged with sex crimes

(Getty Images Photo/Jeff Swensen)

PHOENIX — Timothy Crowley, 69, of Tempe was one of five former Michigan Catholic priests charged with child sex abuse Friday.

According to ABC News, Crowley faces eight counts of criminal sexual conduct.

He allegedly masturbated in front of a 10-year-old altar boy, provided him with cigarettes and alcohol and touched him inappropriately. Crowley allegedly threatened to kill the boy if he told anyone about his actions.

The charges are part of the Michigan state attorney general’s ongoing investigation into clergy abuse going back decades.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said the priests served in dioceses in Detroit, Lansing and Kalamazoo, and that they’ve been charged with various counts of criminal sexual conduct.

Three of the others were arrested in California, Florida and Michigan, while the other awaits extradition from India.

A sixth priest faces an administrative complaint and has had his counseling license suspended by the state, officials said.

Nearly all of the charges, which involve victims who were as young as 5 years old when they were abused, came from roughly 450 calls to a tip line and were corroborated by files seized from dioceses last fall and interviews with multiple victims, Nessel said.

She added that the cases are just the “tip of the iceberg,” as investigators have only gone through at most 10% of the information they have obtained.

They also found many cases in which they could not bring charges because statutes of limitation had expired, priests had died or victims wouldn’t come forward.

“We’re holding people accountable – in this case, some of those clergy who preyed on young children and vulnerable adults,” Nessel said at a news conference.

“Unfortunately, they were hiding in plain sight … and taking advantage of their position of faith and authority.”

Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea issued a statement welcoming the actions of prosecutors, saying this way “the truth can come out and justice may be served.”

“Any priest who commits reprehensible acts against children does grave harm to victims,” Boyea said. “He betrays the priesthood and the entire Church. I pray that Christ brings healing to all involved.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit said in a statement that it “deeply regrets the pain inflicted upon victim-survivors,” and is cooperating with all authorities “in the hope that these partnerships may pave the way toward a future of greater trust and transparency.”

U.S. bishops enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002. However, Nessel said she has read more recent internal communications among church leaders in which they discuss transferring abusive priests as opposed to arresting them.

She said the documents she has reviewed also outline discussions about paying victims’ families so they don’t come forward.

“I want to make certain that we are taking dangerous predators off the street,” she said. “That’s my No. 1 goal – not just to hold those accountable.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement that the criminal charges show “that secular investigations work and that survivors who do come forward and make a report have a real shot at justice.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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