Embattled Lapeer County nonprofit raising money for Father Robert DeLand

An unknown number of people received this letter from Opus Bono Sacerdotii seeking donations...
An unknown number of people received this letter from Opus Bono Sacerdotii seeking donations for Father Robert DeLand's legal expenses. (WJRT)
Published: Jul. 20, 2018 at 7:27 PM EDT
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(7/20/2018) - An organization that claims to raise money for priests in legal trouble is in hot water of its own.

The Michigan Attorney General's Office is telling Opus Bono Sacerdotii to stop its deceptive fundraising tactics on behalf of Catholic priests like the Rev. Robert DeLand.

The organization was raising money to help DeLand pay legal bills as his criminal sexual conduct cases move through the court system in Saginaw County.

DeLand is facing six criminal charges in connection with inappropriate sexual conduct with three young men.

The group claims the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is not paying for DeLand's legal expenses, which total at least $75,000. However, it is not clear whether he knows the group is using his name to raise funds.

A Saginaw County couple received a letter earlier this month from Opus Bono Sacerdotii asking for money to help pay for his legal expenses. Anyone who calls call the number on the letter gets a recorded message asking for money.

The couple attends St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, where DeLand was the priest until his arrest in February. They did not want to be identified and did not send the organization any money.

"We were really mad," the woman said. "We weren't sure if it was legitimate or not legitimate, but it sure looked like it, since it said our names. Our names were spelled right."

Opus Bono Sacerdotii is now in the crosshairs of Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office has just issued a cease and desist order against the organization.

Schuette says the group has a lax governing board, fabricated quotes from priests to raise money and were using most of the funds raised -- more than $1 million dollars nationally -- for themselves.

The letter the Saginaw County couple received was signed by Joe Maher, who is listed as president of Opus Bono.

"I think that is pretty interesting," the woman said. "I still want to know if Father Bob actually did go to them to get money or did they go to him, or was there never really any connection at all."

Officials aren't sure how many people got the letter. Maher did not return messages seeking comment.

DeLand's attorney, Allen Crawford, is familiar with the letter being circulated but did not want to comment further. A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw was not familiar with the letter at all.