Concerns of Bishop Raica’s leadership regarding Fr. Matthew Cowan and Father Dennis Stilwell have caused some to review the Bishop’s experience with issues of sexual abuse. Matthew Cowan remains on administrative leave after he went public with allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by Father Dennis Stilwell. The Diocese of Gaylord stated that the investigation into these allegations was ongoing. However, Father Stilwell remains in active ministry while Father Cowan is still suspended even after multiple instances of inappropriate actions by Father Stilwell have come to light. These include the hiring (for years) of a known diocesan sex offender, James Holtz, to work with altar servers at St. Francis Church in Petoskey where Father Stilwell is currently the pastor.
Bishop Raica’s decisions have led some to question his competency as a shepherd. In 2014, the diocese published a list of this bishop’s experiences and achievements. Bishop Raica received a doctorate in canon law in 1996. However, at the meeting on January 8, 2019, with members of St. Stephen/St. Anne churches to discuss the suspension of Father Cowan, Bishop Raica was unable to list the canon law that Fr. Cowan allegedly violated.
Of significant concern is that from 2005-2009, Bishop Raica served as the Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Lansing. In a recent interview, Bishop Raica claimed that protocols for dealing with sexual abuse have been in place for many years: “we have been dealing with this process for some time.” He claimed that processes for dealing with abuse go back to the 1980’s. Yet despite those years of being charged with assisting victims of abuse and supposedly participating in its prevention, this bishop failed to act in a timely manner regarding known diocesan sex offender James Holtz. In the same recent interview, he stated the following: “Should I have done something earlier? Probably, um. And do I regret not doing something. Yeah, I do.”
Bishop Raica has been a pastor in the Diocese of Lansing as well as being the vicar general (second in command to the Bishop) for Lansing on two separate occasions. With all this knowledge and supposed experience, the lack of leadership is notable. Not only is he refusing to meet with Gaylord Diocesan Watch, he continues to allow Father Dennis Stilwell (the current vicar general of the Gaylord diocese) to function with no restrictions during what is supposedly an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse.