Cardinal Ousts 11 Priests
2 Sex Abuse Cases Pending
By Manya A. Brachear
September 27, 2005
In the final resolution of cases that made headlines at the height of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Francis George has permanently removed 11 priests from public ministry because of sexual misconduct with children.
Fourteen Chicago cases had been forwarded to the Vatican for review since the American church's new rules on sex abuse allegations took effect in 2002.
Two face canonical trials--a local proceeding in front of a panel of priests--because the Vatican determined that their cases required more deliberation. Neither is expected to return to ministry, the cardinal has said. One priest who could have faced penalties imposed by the cardinal has died.
The 11 priests had worked in parishes across Cook and Lake Counties, and some had held high-ranking positions in the archdiocese. They had already been removed from ministry while their cases were pending. Now they will be expected to live out the remainder of their lives in prayer in a monitored and restricted setting. "The archbishop in his decision feels there is moral certitude about what happened," Chancellor Jimmy Lago said Monday in announcing the cases' resolution. "What canon law requires is that we be morally certain that the abuse occurred. In each of the 11 cases, Cardinal George has determined, based on the information presented, that sexual misconduct did occur."
Each priest can appeal the cardinal's verdict, but the process could take a number of years, Lago said. George will not seek to remove the men from the priesthood, opting instead to keep them under close supervision.
"We would much rather have these individuals in a monitored restricted setting, not engaging in public ministry," Lago said. "This is a situation that we have a little bit more control over."
Such decisions are being made across the country as bishops hear back from the Vatican about hundreds of cases forwarded for review. Other bishops have chosen to handle the cases somewhat differently. Some, for example, released the names of the priests being disciplined, unlike the Chicago archdiocese.
However, when the Tribune presented him with a list, Lago confirmed the following priests have been removed from public ministry: Revs. R. Peter Bowman, Daniel Buck, Daniel Mark Holihan, Walter Huppenbauer, Robert Kealy, John Keehan, Donald Mulsoff, James Ray, John Robinson, Raymond Skriba and Anthony Vader.
He also confirmed that Rev. Marion Snieg, who also could have faced sanctions, had died. Revs. Thomas Swade and John Calicott await the conclusion of canonical trials.
"These are not cases that get adjudicated in civil court. They are based on a low threshold that there is probable cause," Lago said. "While other dioceses have done it ... we have not published a list. It's going to be acceptable to some and not acceptable to others. It's not an attempt to hide the ball. It's an attempt to keep some measure of perspective on what's happening here."
The list did not include three priests who face decades-old allegations because those cases have not yet been forwarded to Rome for review, Lago said.
Rev. Walter Turlo, 60, resigned as pastor of St. Fabian Church in Bridgeview where he had been pastor since January 1996. Rev. Bill O'Brien was removed in February from Queen of Angels Church while the archdiocese investigates allegations against him. The independent review board is also investigating allegations against Rev. Joseph Thomas, a retired priest.
Victims' advocates said the refusal to publicize the names and detail the penalties was irresponsible and insensitive. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, offered faint praise of the cardinal's choice to continue supervising the men. But, she argued, a search for more victims might yield crimes that do not fall outside the statute of limitations and could then be prosecuted.
"There is no way that these men are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Blaine said. "Cardinal George should release their names. And then he should be going to every church and school where these men have worked and actively prod anyone with information to turn it over to law enforcement and to police."
Of the priests removed, at least two were high-profile archdiocesan officials at one time. From 1995 to 2000, Bowman served as vicar for administration in the archdiocese. He was removed from St. James Parish in Arlington Heights in 2002.
As chancellor under Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Kealy, a civil and canonical lawyer, informed priests that they were being placed on administrative leave because of sexual abuse allegations and monitored their activities. He was removed from Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity in Winnetka in 2002.
At some parishes where priests had served, pastors read a letter from the cardinal to parishioners Sunday. Others planned to publish it in their upcoming church bulletin.
"I think the whole situation has been very painful," said Rev. Bill Zavaski, pastor at St. James Parish. He read the letter following the liturgy Sunday.
"Certainly sexual abuse in and of itself is an awful thing. And so the parishioners are very pained about that. They are also pained about the fact that Father Bowman, who was a spiritual leader here, was part of that. The cardinal has made the decision. They have to accept that decision, as painful as it is."
Victims were notified of the resolution in letters mailed to their homes.
"I'm seething," said a 56-year-old woman who accused Skriba of abusing her when she was a teen. She received a letter Monday regarding the outcome. "This is nothing new. These aren't penalties. This is what they told me from the beginning. ... Why are they still calling him Father?"
A 47-year-old man who accused Robinson in 2003 said he had not yet been notified. He said the news, which he heard first from the Tribune, left him with even more questions.
"They're removing John Robinson, but what are you doing for the man?" the accuser said. "Is he in therapy?"
Lago said the priests will be expected to follow the same routine they have followed since they were initially removed from ministry. They will continue to receive a sustenance payment from the archdiocese that includes room and board.
Per the cardinal's instructions, they cannot wear a collar and cannot conduct mass for anyone but themselves. They will be assigned to serve in roles outside of public ministry.
"The regimen here is that the cardinal has looked to them to engage in a life of prayer and penance and they are expected to live simply," Lago said.
Robinson's accuser appreciated the fact that the men would remain under the archdiocese's supervision.
"The day I went forward to the archdiocese, his life was affected just like mine was," he said. "All I'm looking for is hopefully he has somewhere to go. I had nowhere to go. Hopefully the archdiocese is making that available. Otherwise you just have an angry person in society. As victims, we go through so many things before we find freedom. I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
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11 priests removed from public ministry
The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has removed the following 11 priests from public ministry after determining that allegations of sexual misconduct were credible. This shows each priest and where he was assigned when the alleged abuse occurred.
Rev. R. Peter Bowman, St. Denis Parish, nearly 50 years ago.
Rev. Daniel Buck, St. Francis Borgia on Chicago's Northwest Side, 1979-84.
Rev. Daniel Mark Holihan, St. Aloysius, Chicago, late 1960s.
Rev. Walter E. Huppenbauer, St. Hilary, Chicago, 1960s.
Rev. Robert L. Kealy, St. Germaine, Oak Lawn, 1972-77.
Rev. John Keehan, St. Basil (now St. Basil/Visitation) on the South Side, late 1960s and early 1970s.
Rev. Donald Mulsoff, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Oak Lawn, and Mary, Queen of Heaven, Cicero.
Rev. James Ray, St. Peter Damian, Bartlett, which he left in the 1980s.
Rev. John A. Robinson, St. Priscilla, early 1980s.
Rev. Raymond Skriba, St. Gertrude, Franklin Park.
Rev. Anthony Vader, Holy Cross, 1952-64.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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