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  Punished Priests Living in Mundelein

By Stacy St. Clair
Daily Herald [Chicago IL]
September 28, 2005

The Chicago Archdiocese has found a home in Mundelein for several newly defrocked priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

Catholic church officials declined to release exact numbers, but they confirm some of the punished clergymen have been staying on the University of St. Mary of the Lake seminary campus since allegations arose against them. The rest are living in private residences or nursing homes.

A victims advocacy group condemns the decision, saying the archdiocese has not warned residents that the men — who the church believes sexually harmed minors — have moved into the area. Cardinal Francis George also has refused to release the priests' names, a move critics say could make it easier for them to prey upon children.

"He has a duty to reveal their names to unsuspecting people in the neighborhood," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests. "There's no way these men are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

On Monday, George announced he had removed 11 priests from public ministry with the Vatican's blessing. The archdiocese refused to list the defrocked priests, but their names have been widely reported.

The cardinal acknowledged he believed all the men engaged in sexual misconduct with minors, but none of them will face criminal charges because the statute of limitations has expired, officials said.

Without a conviction, the priests do not have to register as sex offenders. Instead, the Church has forbidden them from being alone with minors. The priests — who are said to be spending their days in "penance and prayer" — also must check in regularly with an appointed monitor, archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said.

The defrocked priests will no longer be able to conduct Mass or perform sacraments such as marriage, baptisms or funerals. They also may not wear their Roman collars, though technically they will not be removed from the priesthood.

The archdiocese can better supervise the men if they're living on church-owned property, Dwyer said.

"If we kicked them out (of seminary housing) we would not be able to monitor them," he said.

The Mundelein campus is no stranger to troubled clergy.

Ralph Strand, a former Des Plaines priest who went to prison in 1995 for molesting an altar boy, has been living on the seminary grounds for several years.

Strand lives in a retreat house on Maple Avenue, according to state police records. The archdiocese confirmed some of the newly defrocked priests also reside there but said they are housed in a separate section of the building.

Mundelein authorities knew about Strand through the sex offender registration program, but they say they were unaware other punished clergymen had been moved there.

"We'll be talking with the seminary about their long- and short-term plans," Mundelein Deputy Chief Cameron Eugenis said. "Anytime a real or alleged sex offender moves into a community, it's a cause for concern."

Dwyer said the cardinal's decision, coupled with the continued monitoring plan, proves the archdiocese is committed to protecting the public.

"Have we got everything covered so nothing could ever happen?" he asked. "Possibly no. But we're doing our best."

 
 

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