After 41 years in the priesthood, Father Eduard Perrone wasn’t prepared for the hellfire that tore through his parish last summer: he was accused of molesting an altar boy decades earlier, and ousted from his church.
The sex abuse claim blindsided the pastor’s loyal flock, though they believe he is innocent — and have launched an unorthodox crusade to clear his name.
In an unprecedented lawsuit in Michigan, and possibly the country, 20 parishioners from Assumption Grotto are suing the Detroit archdiocese for $20 million, claiming it caused them emotional distress by taking away their priest.
The lawsuit alleges church officials “fabricated” a rape charge against Perrone because they didn’t like his conservative views and wanted him out, and because they wanted to avoid bad press. Perrone was removed from the clergy one month after reporters started asking questions about a fondling claim against him.
According to police reports, the claim involved a 54-year-old man who alleged that Perrone started grooming him when he was 13 while he was an altar boy at St. Peter Catholic Church in Mount Clemens.
The man alleged that Perrone groped him during swim parties at the Perrone family lakehouse, that he served minors wine, had boys stay overnight in the rectory and took him and another boy on a private camping trip, police and church records reviewed by the Free Press say. The church learned of these allegations in 2018, after the man’s wife called an archdiocese hotline and said that her husband had been abused by his priest 40 years earlier. An investigation followed.
Perrone has denied the allegations.
“It seems like it’s all a nightmare,” Perrone said in a recent interview with the Free Press. “I can’t believe this is happening to me. Forty-one years of priesthood … and this has happened? It seems not possible … I know this didn’t happen.”
The parishioners’ lawsuit raises questions about the credibility of the accuser, who, according to police reports, suffers from mental health issues and has changed his story multiple times: He started out saying he was raped, but for reasons unknown, he took back that claim and has said there was groping and fondling only.
The lawsuit alleges that the accuser eventually denied to church officials that he was ever sexually abused by Perrone, though police reports tell a different story — one of a traumatized and devout Catholic who struggled with guilt and shame, feared his disclosures would lead to retaliation, so he shut down at times, then opened back up with the help of therapy.
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