14 from Diocese Accused of Abuse in Last 53 Years

By Abbey Brown
State-Journal Register [Springfield IL]
Downloaded November 16, 2003

There have been 43 credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors against 14 priests in the Springfield Catholic diocese during the last 53 years, according to results of a report disclosed Friday by the diocese.

The information was submitted to researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York in response to a call by bishops nationwide for a survey to determine the nature and scope of known sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, said Kathie Sass, director of communications for the Springfield diocese.

"We are trying to get a picture of this issue on a national level," she said. "Every diocese had to dig and look at the last 50 years to get the information."

She said the local report wasn't available to the media.

The figures handed over to John Jay included the number of priests who served between 1950 and June 2003, information on sexual abuse allegations deemed to be credible, alleged victims, suspected priests or others associated with the church and the amount of money spent on such allegations - settlements, lawyers fees and medical costs.

The national study, covering U.S. Catholic dioceses during the 53-year time span, is to be released in February.

None of the 14 accused priests remain in public ministry, Sass said. They represent 3.29 percent of the approximately 425 diocesan priests who have served in the Springfield diocese since 1950.

Not all of the credible allegations were brought to court - some were just reported, others were settled out of court, and a few ended in convictions, she said.

An allegation is deemed credible until it is disproved, Sass said.

"When someone cares enough to report it, it generally has really happened," she said. "Very rarely are allegations not credible."

Former Springfield Bishop Daniel Ryan faced allegations in the last two years that he solicited sex from a 15-year-old boy in 1984. Court documents filed in 2002 contain written statements from that person, who was 33 when the statement was given, and three other men, all of whom said they were targets of sexual advances by Ryan.

The Springfield diocese referred the case to the Sangamon County state's attorney's office, which said the statue of limitations had expired in the case.

Sass said the allegations made against Ryan are among those submitted in the report. Ryan stepped down as leader of the Springfield diocese in 1999. He was replaced by current Bishop George Lucas.

"We regret that any child or young person was ever abused by someone working in the name of the church, especially by clergy," Lucas told the Catholic Times, the diocesan newspaper, this week.

"We are committed to communicating the truth about what has happened over the past 53 years here in our diocese. We hope that this report will in some way aid in the process of healing for anyone who has been harmed by the sexual abuse of a minor."

The report showed that, although alleged victims have come forward with charges of abuse in recent years, there have been no credible reports of abuse involving a minor since 1987.

During the 53 years, the diocese has paid more than $1.7 million in settlements to victims and an additional $120,000 for medical expenses like counseling, Sass said. About $315,000 was paid in attorney fees. Of the more than $2.1 million paid by the diocese, insurance covered $1.1 million of the settlements and $51,000 of the legal fees.

"We've been very fortunate not to have a huge problem," Sass said, "even though one instance is still too many. Sexual assault to minors is a sin and a crime."

The diocese includes 160 parishes in 28 counties in central Illinois.

Abbey Brown can be reached through the metro desk at 788-1519 or

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