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  Priest Registers As Sex Offender

By Frank Main and Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
April 24, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old altar boy over a two-year span beginning in 1990 has registered with Downers Grove police as a sex offender after declining to talk with Chicago Sun-Times reporters about where he lives.

As a convicted sex offender, the Rev. Ralph Strand is required to tell police where he lives--including any place he stays at least 10 days in a year. Strand, 64, had been listed on the Illinois State Police Web site as living at the Archdiocese of Chicago's graduate seminary in Mundelein.

Until he changed it last month, though, his Illinois driver's license had Strand in Downers Grove, at the same address as his elderly mother. Reached by phone there, Strand identified himself to a reporter but would not talk about where he lives.

Soon after, on Friday, he told Downers Grove police to list his mother's home as his second address, saying he stays there more than 10 days a year, Downers Grove police Sgt. Bill Budds said.

Budds said he is looking into whether to include Strand's photo and Downers Grove address on the DuPage County sheriff's sex-offender Web site. "We probably will," he said. The State Police lists only the primary address of sex offenders on its Web site, spokesman Dave Sanders said.

Strand was sentenced in 1995 to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to criminal sexual assault involving the altar boy at St. Mary's Church in Des Plaines, where he served as an associate pastor from 1986 to 1991. Strand was paroled from state prison in April 1997 after serving 21 months.

Strand is still a priest, said Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, but "is not in any ministry" and "lives at Mundelein so he can be monitored." The seminary, on the University of St. Mary of the Lake campus, has only adult students.

Strand is allowed to visit his mother, Dwyer said, and notifies the administrator of the archdiocese's Professional Fitness Review Board when he leaves Mundelein to see her. But Dwyer said the archdiocese had not been aware Strand needed to tell police he was regularly staying in Downers Grove.

Strand's situation exposes a problem with the archdiocese's monitoring, said Barbara Blaine, founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"They can't claim, 'We're monitoring him,' and then claim, 'We didn't know the laws that required him to register in both places,' " Blaine said.

Strand, who served at Chicago's St. Francis Borgia from 1991 until he was placed on leave in 1993, is the only priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago registered as a sex offender, Dwyer said.

 
 

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