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  3rd Ex-Loyola Student Alleges Abuse

By Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune
November 20, 2003

A former student at Loyola Academy in Wilmette filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Jesuit religious order, which runs the school, accusing a teacher of molesting him in 1962.

Lou Franchi, who said Rev. Wilton Skiffington repeatedly abused him when Franchi was an upperclassman at Loyola, is the third former student to file suit since August over alleged abuse at Loyola. The incidents allegedly took place at least 30 years ago.

Skiffington, who was an English and religion teacher and spiritual counselor at Loyola, died in 1988 at a retirement home in Clarkston, Mich. Two complaints have been filed involving Rev. Donald McGuire, a former counselor at Loyola.

Franchi said that while the abuse was taking place, his parents found an explicit letter from Skiffington on their son's dresser. Franchi said he has no recollection of the letter but was told it referred to "my beautiful body." He has incomplete memories of the abuse, he said.

His parents turned the letter over to school officials, and Skiffington was immediately transferred to a parish in San Diego, Franchi said.

Franchi, 57, filed his suit in Cook County Circuit Court.

"This is a very difficult thing to do," said Franchi, of Bloomingdale. "The people who came before me have given me the courage to express my shame that I've been hiding even from myself for the past decades. ... I did not know what was right or wrong. He was supposed to be my guide."

Rev. James P. Gschwend, the delegate for conduct inquiries for the Jesuits' Chicago province, said officials were notified of Franchi's case in late October.

"We immediately attempted to reach out to the accuser," Gschwend said in a statement. "Though limited at the present time through litigation, we hope in the future to be able to offer pastoral care in an effort to help the accuser heal."

The order also is investigating the complaint against Skiffington.

Roman Catholic religious orders in the United States have agreed to comply with most of the protocols for protecting children drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas last year. Those rules include removing abusive priests from public ministry.

Ordained in 1936, Skiffington spent most of his career teaching English and religion in parochial high schools. He taught at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago between 1952 and 1955, before arriving at Loyola Academy when the school was still located on Chicago's North Side.

 
 

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