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  Priest Resigns Amid Allegations of Sex Abuse 25 Years Ago

By Teresa Mask and Dave Orrick
Chicago Daily Herald
March 28, 2002

Amid allegations that he sexually abused a teenager 25 years ago, a North suburban Roman Catholic priest has resigned his position in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

For the past six months, the Rev. Robert L. Kealy had worked as pastor of Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Church in Winnetka. He will remain in the priesthood but has withdrawn from active ministry.

No charges have been filed against Kealy, but investigators in the sexual crimes unit of the Cook County's state's attorney's office continue to look into the issue, said spokeswoman Marcy O'Boyle.

She declined to elaborate about why charges haven't been filed, citing an ongoing investigation.

Kealy resigned after allegations were made public Tuesday that more than 25 years ago he "engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct with a minor teenager." At the time, Kealy was associate pastor of St. Germaine Church in Oak Lawn, according to the archdiocese.

"I'm shocked, just shocked," Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity church volunteer Jill Andrews said Wednesday upon hearing that Kealy was the target of an investigation. "I have only met him a few times, but he baptized my baby, which really freaks me out."

Jim Dwyer, director of communications for the archdiocese, said it's a sad situation. "Obviously, he was a very learned man. It's a sad moment for everybody. ...Our hearts go out to the victim, if this is true. And it indeed may be."

Ordained in 1972, Kealy also has held positions at St. Norbert Church in Northbrook, St. Cletus Church in LaGrange and Immaculate Conception Church in Highland Park.

In 1987 Kealy received the John Courtney Murray Award from DePaul University. The award honors individuals whose work, faith and involvement strive to end religious conflict and further religious freedom.

The archdiocese is not releasing any information about the person who raised the allegations. Officials have confirmed that last summer the archdiocese's independent Professional Review Board received the allegation.

Jimmy Lago, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said the review board did not report the case then because it didn't have enough information.

In recent weeks, the person making the allegations returned to the archdiocese with more evidence, Lago said. He said that's when the review board turned the case over to the state's attorney's office and recommended that Kealy be removed from his position.

After resigning Tuesday, Kealy moved out of the parish rectory into an undisclosed "restricted, monitored setting," according to a letter to parishioners from the archdiocese.

Bishop Edwin M. Conway sent the letter to Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity congregation members Wednesday informing parishioners of the allegations. Conway, vicar for Vicariate II where the church is located, will oversee Easter services there.

Prior to Kealy taking the pastor's post in Winnetka, the previous pastor, the Rev. Thomas Ventura announced he was leaving the priesthood to get married, Lago said. Ventura was ordained in 1961.

Last week, the archdiocese announced it was going to be revisiting its policy on how it handles sexual abuse cases. Dwyer said it's unlikely that church officials will change the procedure for when they report cases to the state's attorney's office.

"We're not trying to excuse the real abuse that does happen, but we can't automatically hang people out to dry," he said.

Dwyer said when a report is made, all purported victims are given a form that includes the state's attorney's number as a contact while the archdiocese investigates. But he said often the people making the allegations aren't interested in prosecuting. And he said the archdiocese policy doesn't allow officials to rush to judgment without some due process.

"If the allegations are true, it is among the most serious violations a person can endure," Dwyer said. "If the allegations are not true, it is one of the most serious violations of a person's reputation..."

 
 

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