By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Former Sacred Heart Parish Associate Pastor the Rev. Joseph Baker, 57, was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel July 8.
The arrest was made in Wayne County by special agents from the Attorney General’s office. Baker is one of six priests charged with criminal sexual conduct.
During a July 8 arraignment, 29th District Court Judge Laura Mack assigned a $500,000 personal bond to Baker who is on an electronic tether, according to The Oakland Press.
A probable cause conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 18 in 18th District Court in Westland.
The charge of first degree criminal sexual conduct — sexual penetration with a person under 13 — is part of the Attorney General office’s ongoing investigation into clergy abuse within the Catholic Church.
From 1996 to 1997, Backer was an associate pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Parish, 22430 Michigan Ave. Before that he was an associate pastor at St. Hugo of Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills, from 1993 to 1996.
Baker also was a campus minister at Wayne State Medical School Campus Ministry in Detroit from 1996 to 1997, a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne from 1997 to 2008, administrator at Ss. Kevin and Norbert Parish in Inkster from 2003 to 2004, administrator from 2003 to 2008 at Holy Family Parish in Inkster, administrator at St. Benedict Parish in Waterford in 2011, and pastor at St. Perpetua Parish in Wayne from 2008 to present.
He attended Michigan Technological University, Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and was ordained in 1993.
St. Perpetua Parish named Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Gerard Battersby as temporary administrator in June. The Archdiocese of Detroit announced it had restricted Baker from all public ministry pending the outcome of the canonical process as of June 19.
According to the news release by the Archdiocese, Baker is prohibited from representing himself as a priest, wearing clerical attire or exercising any form of Church ministry.
The sexual conduct charge against Baker was a result of a tip from the Archdiocese which originally received the report and passed it on to the Attorney General’s clergy abuse team.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Nessel said. “Our clergy abuse investigative team is working day and night to review the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and files seized from all seven of Michigan’s dioceses last fall. At the same time, we continue to receive calls daily from victims who know we will listen to them, believe in them, and investigate their allegations. They deserve nothing less than our very best.”
On May 24, Nessel announced 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct charges against five former priests: Timothy Michael Crowley, Neil Kalina, Vincent DeLorenzo, Patrick Casey and Jacob Vellian.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)