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  Retired Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By Teresa Mask
Chicago Daily Herald
April 10, 2002

A retired suburban priest who led churches in Lake Villa and Mount Prospect joins a growing number of Catholic clergy being investigated nationwide for sexual misconduct.

The Rev. Richard Fassbinder, 75, is the second suburban priest in two weeks to be investigated for allegedly sexually abusing a minor more than 25 years ago, according to officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Fassbinder worked at Lake Villa's Prince of Peace Church from 1973 to 1997 and was named pastor in 1977. Before that, he was pastor for six years, from 1967 to 1973, at St. Emily Catholic Church in Mount Prospect.

Officials from the archdiocese said its independent review board has determined that there is "reasonable cause" to suspect Fassbinder engaged in sexual misconduct with a male minor while he was at Prince of Peace.

Lake County State's Attorney Mike Waller said his office had been contacted by the archdiocese. "We have received information concerning a sexual relationship which ended in the mid-1980s and began when the subject was underage," Waller said. "The statue of limitations has run out on any crimes that may have been committed during that time. However, because he was a pastor until 1997, we are investigating to see if there were any other incidents or people involved."

Jim Dwyer, an archdiocese spokesman, said the allegations were reported for the first time in December 2001. He said the man reporting the allegations is now in his 40s and lives out of the state. Dwyer said the man reported that the abuse began when he was a teenager and continued into adulthood.

Dwyer said Fassbinder, who now lives in a private residence in the Fox Lake area, is being monitored by the archdiocese and must report his activities, particularly if he plans to leave town.

"He's not in any position to be a threat to anybody," Dwyer said.

Dwyer said he is not aware of any other pending cases being investigated by the independent review board. But as part of a plan to review the archdiocese's current policy on sexual abuse among clergy, the review board is revisiting the handling of old cases.

Meanwhile, the Cook County state's attorney's office is investigating the Rev. Robert L. Kealy, who resigned two weeks ago amid allegations that he abused a minor. He last worked as pastor of Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Church in Winnetka. He remains in the priesthood but has withdrawn from active ministry.

Ordained in 1953, Fassbinder retired in 1997 but served as pastor emeritus at Prince of Peace, appearing at special occasions. Officials from the archdiocese said he is now restricted from any public ministry and has been placed on a monitoring program.

Bishop Jerome E. Listecki, who oversees vicarate I, which includes Catholic churches in the Northwest suburbs and Lake County, sent letters to members of Prince of Peace alerting them to the allegations against their former pastor. "The violation of confidence on the part of clergy brings heartache for us all," he wrote.

Listecki told parishioners that the Catholic Church has a commitment to root out sin. He also said the church is praying for victims of sexual abuse and clergy who have abused.

Longtime Prince of Peace parishioner Helen Golebiowski of Gurnee said she is surprised by the allegations.

She said she remembers Fassbinder as "very quiet and private."

After Mass he didn't mingle much, opting instead to return to the rectory, she said.

"I've been a member for 28 years, and both my sons were altar boys," she said. "I have nothing but good things to say about the man."

 
 

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