|Defrocked Priest Has Ties to High Schools -- Michael Van Acker Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct
By Michael Miller
June 8, 2002
PEORIA - A Galesburg priest with ties to two central Illinois high schools has been asked to step down from public ministry because of allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor 20 years ago, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced Friday.
The Rev. Michael Van Acker, 50, most recently chaplain at OSF St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg, is being asked by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky not to function as a Catholic priest in any public capacity. He also would not be able to wear clerical clothing or the Roman collar and to refrain from using the title "Reverend" or "Father."
Friday's announcement brings the number of priests asked by Jenky to step down from public ministry to eight. The other seven have until the end of next week to submit their letters of resignation or face a possible church tribunal. All of them are expected to resign, diocesan spokeswoman Kate Kenny has said. Van Acker, a Moline native, was chaplain at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington from 1982 to 1986 and chaplain at the former Bergan High School in Peoria from 1986 to 1988. Bergan was consolidated with Academy of Our Lady-Spalding Institute in fall 1988 to form Notre Dame High School.
The diocese would not give any information on the allegations, other than that the misconduct occurred in the early 1980s.
Diocesan Vice Chancellor Patricia Gibson said she did not know if Van Acker has admitted to the allegations or denied them.
"He has agreed to cooperate with the bishop's request," she said.
Curt Lipe, senior assistant administrator at St. Mary's, said Friday that Van Acker has resigned his position at the hospital.
"Mike has been a very good friend to all of us here for his whole time here," Lipe said. "We're just saddened by the whole affair."
The allegations were brought to the diocese within the past 10 days, Gibson said.
The resignation requests come as the diocese and the U.S. church continue to deal with a widening controversy involving priests accused of molesting minors and bishops' handling of the cases. U.S. bishops will take up the issue at their annual meeting starting Thursday.
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