Archdiocese Removes 8 Priests
By Todd Lighty and Monica Davey
Five of the priests, George said, plan to fight their removal and file appeals, setting in motion an uncharted church process that has been used mainly to handle marriage annulments.
George's announcement came 10 days after the nation's bishops adopted a unified sex abuse standard to remove from ministry any priest found to have molested a child.
Ten years ago, the Chicago archdiocese adopted its own policy for handling priests accused of child sex abuse, but it allowed some priests to continue in ministry if they underwent therapy, were monitored and were never alone with children.
The removal of these eight priests represents the effort of the Chicago archdiocese to conform to the new, tougher national standard.
That five priests are not going quietly and that in at least one parish many parishioners were heartbroken at losing their priest shows the extent to which the bishops have squeezed leniency out of their policy.
At masses Saturday and Sunday, parishioners at three Chicago area churches learned for the first time that their priests had been accused of molesting a child years ago. Many parishioners described it as a weekend of shock and pain.
"It's still hard to believe," said Marge Raupp, 65, a parishioner at St. Mary Catholic Church in Buffalo Grove, where Rev. Daniel Buck, 57, had been an associate pastor until the weekend announcement. Of her fellow parishioners, Raupp said, "I think they're still numb."
In addition to Buck, the parish priests are Rev. John Calicott, 54, of Holy Angels in Chicago; Rev. John Keehan, 60, of St. Ann in Chicago and Rev. William Lupo, 63, of St. Peter Damian in Bartlett. Four other priests--a chaplain, a retiree and two working in administrative jobs--also were removed.
George met with each priest--some more than once--to discuss their removal. "I hope that as we continue through this process justice will be done for all," George said Sunday, "and that there will be healing in the church and trust restored."
George did not provide details of the allegations made against each priest but said the archdiocese had determined years ago there was "reasonable cause to believe" the priests had abused children. No subsequent allegations of abuse have been lodged against them, he said.
Calicott broke into tears Sunday morning when he announced to his anguished congregation at Holy Angels that he was being forced to step down. Calicott was met with hugs from parishioners, many of whom said they want him to stay.
"I'm just very depressed. I'm hurting inside," Calicott said during a break between services. "How can the church do this? I really don't think zero tolerance is very Christian, and I'm struggling to see the fairness in this."
In 1995 Calicott was welcomed back into the South Side parish 1 1/2 years after being removed for allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct with two 15-year-old boys at another parish in 1976. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin said he made the extraordinary decision to reinstate him because Calicott's case was isolated and that he posed "no significant risk to children."
Calicott said he will appeal the decision, all the way to the Vatican if necessary. Until then he must move into a retreat center with the other priests on the grounds of Mundelein Seminary, he said.
"All I know now is that I will vigorously defend myself. This ministry is my life," Calicott said. "This is really uncharted waters. Not even bishops really know where to go from here."
Many parishioners wore yellow ribbons and buttons reading, "Justice for Father John."
"Father John is the pillar of this church. If they pulled him away, it would destroy our parish," said Juanita Whiteside, who has been attending Holy Angels for 27 years. "A lot of parishioners would leave, me included. If necessary, we're going to get a group to Rome because this is a witch hunt."
In the neighborhood around St. Ann Catholic Church, at 1840 S. Leavitt St., people were still learning of Keehan's removal late Sunday afternoon. Members of the small red brick church, where mass is held in Spanish, Polish and English, seemed stunned.
Frank Kaplan, 83, was baptized and married at St. Ann, said Keehan had shown himself to be a stabilizing influence in the area--someone who worked to end gang activity, Kaplan said.
"He's always up there trying stop them and telling them to break it up," Kaplan said. "He cares a lot about the neighborhood."
Keehan, ordained in 1967, served at eight parishes during his tenure. The allegation against him, the archdiocese said, stemmed from his time at St. Basil (now St. Basil/Visitation) on the South Side--the first church he served at in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As recently as last weekend, Kaplan said, parishioners had no hint of any accusations against Keehan.
Rodrigo Silva, a deacon at the church, said he was saddened. "People only want to talk about the bad things when it comes to our priests and none of the good things," he said.
In Buffalo Grove, parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church had only known Buck for about a year. After serving in seven other churches since his 1971 ordination, Buck last July became an associate pastor at St. Mary.
Raupp, who has gone to church there for 35 years, said she and her fellow parishioners were still reeling from the news about their priest.
She said she had been keeping up with news developments connected to the church sex abuse scandal but said "it never hit as close to home."
Raupp heard about Buck's removal late Saturday when some friends called her. They had attended the Saturday evening mass, where a letter about Buck was read. Raupp went to mass at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, during which the letter again was read.
The archdiocese said the allegation against Buck was connected to time he spent working at St. Francis Borgia parish on Chicago's Northwest Side between 1979 and 1984.
Rev. Marc Reszel, pastor at St. Mary, said Buck was in the process of moving out of the rectory. "He has served here faithfully for the year he's been assigned here," Reszel said of Buck, who served as the church's director of liturgy.
In Bartlett, Lupo had been pastor of St. Peter Damian since 1990. Ordained in 1965, Lupo had ministered in four other churches.
Parishioner Lambert Lucietto, who serves on the church's pastoral counsel, said archdiocesan officials informed the parishioners that Lupo had been accused about 20 years ago of inappropriate conduct involving at least two teenage girls.
"I think it came as a shock to every parishioner," Lucietto said.
Tom Viola of Hanover Park, who has attended the Bartlett church for 12 years, said he was devastated by the news. Viola said the situation with Lupo is making him rethink his feelings about the new national policy.
"Yesterday I was 100 percent in favor of zero tolerance," he said. "Today I think you have to look at each situation."
Also removed were Rev. James Ray, 53, assigned an administrative job in the Office of Health and Hospital Affairs, and Rev. Thomas Swade, 66, coordinator of the Office for Racial Justice.
Rev. Richard Bartz, 53, who was a hospital chaplain, joined Lupo in resigning from the priesthood.
An eighth priest, Rev. Daniel Holihan, 72, had retired in 1992 and will no longer be allowed to celebrate weekend masses.
Calicott, Keehan, Buck, Ray and Swade all plan to appeal.
"They have the right to do that," George said. "It's a real penalty, and the changes are for life."
The national policy adopted by the bishops does not get into details of a sex abuse appeals process, but it does stress the need for due process and for the following of canon law--or church law.
That process in the Archdiocese of Chicago is beginning to take shape and will involve the church tribunal, a quasi-judicial board that rules on marriage annulments.
On Tuesday the archdiocese will prepare case summaries for each of the five priests and forward the materials to the Vatican, seeking to conduct a trial before the tribunal here and not before one in Rome.
The priests' cases will be handled separately and could take a year or
longer to resolve.
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