Woman Says Southeast Side Priest Abused Her
Order's Lawyer Calls It 'Interesting' She Waited until Man Died to Sue
By Steve Patterson
May 3, 2005
A Park Forest woman ended what she said was 39 years of silence Monday, talking publicly about a priest who she says abused her at a Southeast Side church.
Carmen Severino filed suit against a Catholic order known as the Claretians, claiming it has harbored pedophile priests, including a priest who once led Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
The priest she accuses of molestation is now dead. An attorney for the Claretians called it "interesting" that Severino came forward with her story only after he had died.
"It's unfortunate she chose a press conference to talk about this before contacting us with these terrible allegations," said attorney Rick Leamy. "It's interesting they've known about this for so long, but waited until the poor man died before filing a lawsuit. Now, he can't defend himself."
Severino laid out her claims in a Daley Center press conference that included her attorneys, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, as well as a Chicago man who filed a 2003 lawsuit against the Claretian order, claiming he was sexually molested by another Claretian priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Severino said it was that lawsuit that prompted her to come forward. "It's important to my healing that I come forward," she said.
Severino said the abuse started in 1966, when she was 11, and continued until 1971. She said she confronted the priest with the allegations in 2003 as he lay in a nursing home, paralyzed from a stroke.
She said he cried and tried holding her hand, which she took as an acknowledgment of the acts.
"But I forgave him as a Christian and because it was what I had to do to carry on," she said.
Minnesota attorney Jeffrey Anderson said a 58-year-old woman is likely to join Severino in a lawsuit against the Claretians claiming abuse by the same priest.
Also attending the news conference was Armando Silva, who anonymously filed suit against the Claretians in 2003, claiming abuse by a former priest.
The order was established in Spain and focuses on service to Hispanics in six parishes, including Our Lady of Guadalupe, 3200 E. 91st St., home to a church, youth center and school.
The accused priest retired in 1992, but he served at St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi and Immaculate Heart of Mary Vicariate within the Archdiocese of Chicago.
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