A former Michigan priest pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 5-year-old boy after officiating a memorial service for the boy’s family more than 35 years ago, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced in a news release this week.

Vincent DeLorenzo, 84, a former priest with the Lansing Diocese, assaulted the boy “following a service he officiated for the boy’s deceased family member” in 1987, the attorney general said. The Lansing Diocese removed DeLorenzo from the ministry in 2002, saying they have a “a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse of minors.”

In exchange for DeLorenzo’s guilty plea, additional abuse charges stemming from a larger investigation into clergy sexual abuse will be dropped, the attorney general said. 

DeLorenzo was charged with the sexual assault of a child from 1995-2000, while the child was a student at Holy Redeemer School and Church in Burton, Michigan, the attorney general said. 

In 2019, DeLorenzo was one of five Michigan priests arrested, the attorney general’s office said, for abusing children. DeLorenzo and the four other Michigan priests who were suspected of abusing thousands of children. During the initial investigation, law enforcement interviewed 552 victims who have named 270 priests as abusers. 

DeLorenzo was arrested in Marion County, Florida, in May 2019, the attorney general said, and brought back to Michigan for trial. 

Nessel said in the news statement the plea deal was reached in consultation with DeLorenzo’s victims and that the guilty plea was “an important part of this healing process for the survivors of DeLorenzo.”

Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a news statement that “it is always disheartening when predators avoid further justice through legal loopholes.”  

Hiner said he hopes others who witnessed or suffered clergy abuse will come forward.

“We truly hope that the sentencing judge sends a very strong message in this case and points out that regardless of age, justice will prevail,” he said.