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  Priest's Removal 'Difficult' for Parish

By Aamer Madhani and Monica Davey
Chicago Tribune
May 29, 2002

Three days after learning that their beloved former pastor had been relieved of his duties because of allegations of sexual misconduct, hundreds of parishioners gathered Tuesday night at St. James Church in Arlington Heights, struggling to reconcile the accusations with their memories of the priest.

"He's a compassionate and wonderful pastor, so these accusations are very difficult to understand," Carol Kuick said of Rev. R. Peter Bowman, 73, who served as a deputy to Cardinal Francis George and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Bowman has been accused of sexual misconduct with a boy more than 45 years ago. Similar allegations were made against Rev. Donald Mulsoff, 58, an associate pastor at St. Celestine Church in Elmwood Park. Both priests were suspended last weekend.

"This is a very difficult situation--the church obviously needs to deal with this matter, but this happened 45 years ago," said Richard Fung, 56, a longtime member of St. James Church. "I wish I knew what the prudent approach would be to take in this."

The accusation against Bowman dates to when he was an associate pastor at St. Denis Parish on the city's Southwest Side. Bowman left St. James in 1995 to become vicar of administration for the Archdiocese of Chicago and retired in 2000.

Bowman was no longer pastor of St. James but continued to perform priestly duties at the large northwest suburban parish. The decades-old allegation surfaced in April, archdiocese officials said.

Church officials said the allegations against Bowman were reviewed, found credible and forwarded to the Cook County state's attorney's office.

In the case allegedly involving Mulsoff, a man who recently complained to the archdiocese about the priest said he had made a similar complaint about 10 years ago and had been led to believe then that Mulsoff was already being monitored and counseled. Archdiocese officials said they could find no records Tuesday to support the man's account.

The man said he called archdiocese officials in 1992 or 1993 to report an incident involving Mulsoff when Mulsoff worked at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Oak Lawn in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The man said he was 10 years old when he was sent to a room to be punished by Mulsoff. There, the man said, what Mulsoff called a spanking amounted to fondling.

The man said that after he anonymously reported the incident about a decade ago, he spoke with the then archdiocesan vicar for priests some five times over several weeks. In a final conversation, he said, the vicar told him that the priest would undergo counseling and would be supervised "more closely."

Recently, as new coverage of sex abuse in the priesthood emerged, the man said he learned that Mulsoff was still an active priest, and he reported his allegations to authorities again, this time revealing his name.

James Dwyer, a spokesman for the Chicago archdiocese, confirmed that an anonymous allegation was made against Mulsoff about a decade ago. Dwyer said he could not immediately provide information about what actions the archdiocese took. He said he could find no record of a conversation regarding counseling or supervision for Mulsoff.

Neither the former vicar for priests nor Mulsoff could be reached for comment Tuesday.

 
 

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