Ex-City Priest Quits Amid Allegations
Accusations Stun Kentucky Church

By Matthew Walberg
Chicago Tribune
December 16, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest in Louisville has been removed from the ministry following allegations he sexually molested four young boys while he was pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Chicago more than 20 years ago.

Rev. John Baptist Ormechea was asked to resign Friday after an investigation by the Cook County state's attorney's office, and is to refrain from any ministry, said Rev. Michael Higgins, the Chicago leader of the Passionist religious order, to which Ormechea belonged.

The popular priest, known as "Father J.B.," has been sent to a Passionist monastery, where he is being kept in seclusion, Higgins said.

Higgins said he received a letter on Thursday from Cook County prosecutors stating that four victims were abused between 1978 and 1981 while Ormechea was priest at the Far Northwest Side parish.

One of the victims, a 36-year-old Chicago stockbroker, told authorities that when he was in the 6th and 7th grades, Ormechea would often visit his family's home for dinner, and afterward, would come to the boy's room on the pretext of saying goodnight, Higgins said.

The prosecutors' letter said alleged abuse began with a kiss on the forehead and progressed to prolonged kisses on the mouth, Higgins said. Eventually, the priest began laying on the boy, rubbing against him, and would sometimes fondle the boy, Higgins said.

Three other victims also alleged Ormechea visited their rooms on the pretext of saying goodnight, only to sexually abuse them, Higgins said. Two of the victims were in high school, and another was in grade school when the alleged abuse took place, he said.

The statute of limitations prevented Cook County authorities from prosecuting Ormechea, said Harry Rothgerber, first assistant commonwealth's attorney for Jefferson County in Kentucky. His office and the Cook County state's attorney's office have been sharing information since the investigation began, Rothgerber said.

"I'm devastated by these allegations," Higgins said Sunday night. "He's a warm, outgoing, very friendly man--that's my experience, but that's not been the experience of these boys."

Members of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville were told of the news on Saturday in a letter from Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly and in an address by Higgins.

"With deep regret I have accepted Father J.B. Ormechea's resignation as pastor of St. Agnes," Kelly said in the letter explaining the priest's resignation. "After reviewing the [Cook County state's attorney's] report, [Higgins] and I agreed that Father J.B. should be relieved of active ministry."

A new pastor was appointed, and counselors were scheduled to visit the St. Agnes parish school on Monday.


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