The unfortunate story of Fr. Bryan Medlin is yet another sad example in ongoing corruption in the Catholic Church. As first reported in Gaylord Diocesan Watch, Fr. Medlin is currently being investigated by the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Attorney General for inappropriate text messaging to minors while he was pastor at St. Mary Church and school in Leelanau. In July 2021, Fr. Medlin was mysteriously and suddenly transferred from his assignment at St. Mary and placed at Cross in the Woods parish, a rural parish with no school. This occurred less than 3 years after Fr. Medlin was assigned at St. Mary. At the time, many in the Diocese questioned the move as possibly related to something else. It turns out that “something else” was the investigation which started last fall. In December 2021, when it was leaked that he was being investigated, he was abruptly removed from Cross in the Woods parish.
This is, unfortunately, almost a textbook bishop response to a problem priest. Instead of notifying diocesan faithful of a major potential problem, the bishop attempts to hide the issue from public view by transferring the priest who potentially has the problem. In the past, this was often effective. When Bishop Hurley was the head of the priest misconduct board for the Archdiocese of Detroit, he moved serial child molester Fr. Gerald Shirilla from Detroit to the Gaylord Diocese. It was months into Fr. Shirilla’s stay in the Gaylord Diocese before he was exposed and removed from ministry.
Bishop Hurley tried a similar move with Fr. Medlin. Perhaps Hurley thought that moving Medlin out of a parish with a school would deflect bad press or hide the problem. It didn’t. It simply made the problem worse.
In an attempt to explain away the sad situation, Bishop Hurley wrote the following to parishioners at Cross in the Woods parish. In the bulletin of January 9, 2022, the following was written:
Dear Parishioners of Cross in the Woods Parish:
Some days ago, a matter was brought to the attention of
the Diocese of Gaylord which impacts your parish, and
while this was addressed during the weekend Masses, this
letter ensures that all are informed of the status of this
The diocese became aware some days ago of an apparent
violation of our diocesan Protocols for Ministry to Minors
involving electronic messages sent to a small number of
students. The diocese immediately referred the concerns
to the Michigan Department of Attorney General and
Michigan State Police, who are investigation the matter.
Any investigation of the matter by Church authorities will
be undertaken after the civil investigation concludes.
This investigation involves your pastor, Fr. Bryan Medlin,
who has stepped aside from all parish and diocesan
responsibilities (i.e., pastor of Cross in the Woods and
assistant director of vocation of the Diocese of Gaylord)
while this civil investigation is underway. Fr. Medlin is not
engaging in any ministerial activities at this time. Fr. James
Gardiner will oversee parish responsibilities and be with
you during this time in the days ahead.
The diocese continues to fully cooperate with law
enforcement and civil authorities and follow their
direction. While specific questions may not be answerable
at this moment in order to maintain the integrity of the
civil investigation that is underway, you can always direct
questions to the Michigan State Police or the Michigan
Department of Attorney General.
I’m mindful of how difficult it is to hear such matters,
particularly in this season of hope and joy. I want to assure
you of my prayers for each of you. May God bless you and
your family this Christmas season, and bring you hope, joy
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley
Bishop Hurley uses the term “some days ago” to imply ignorance on the part of the Diocese with regard to Fr. Medlin. It is increasingly obvious that “some days ago” doesn’t cut it. The Diocese of Gaylord was aware of this months ago but chose to hide the problem in the hope it would disappear. The days of blind acceptance of the words of our bishops are long behind us. They have repeatedly betrayed our trust and confidence with their lies, empty words and bad actions. Let us pray that the future Bishop of the Diocese, Jeff Walsh, will be true to his vocation and be a holy shepherd for the Diocese.