40 Years Later, Legal Twist Puts Priest on Trial
Plaintiff, Newspaper Want Details Made Public
By Josh Noel firstname.lastname@example.org
February 17, 2006
When Cook County authorities a few years ago said they couldn't prosecute a renowned Jesuit priest accused of molesting two Loyola Academy students in the 1960s, the alleged victims, now middle-age men, looked north.
The district attorney in Walworth County, Wis.--where Rev. Donald McGuire wasn't shielded by the state's statute of limitations--agreed to press charges.
In a rare case of a priest facing charges in another state for decades-old allegations, McGuire's criminal trial begins Friday in Elkhorn, Wis. He is accused of molesting the students five times during several trips to the resort area near Lake Geneva between 1966 and 1968.
Walworth County District Atty. Phil Koss said the accusers will testify that McGuire, 75, also molested them repeatedly when they were in their early teens and living in his room at the school's Wilmette campus.
Because the Wisconsin statute of limitations applies only to residents of the state, it does not protect McGuire, who lives in a Hyde Park Jesuit residence, Koss said.
McGuire, who was born in Oak Park and went on to travel the world as the spiritual director for Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer said McGuire might testify, but McGuire did not respond to a phone message for this story.
"Obviously. we're saying it's not true," said attorney Gerald P. Boyle, a Loyola University graduate who practices in Milwaukee. "We've got all kinds of things we're going to bring to the jury's attention."
Trying a priest on an old claim or in another state are both rare; together they are even more unusual.
But David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the case reflects a growing trend of priests facing charges for old allegations. In the last three years, priests have been convicted in Detroit and St. Louis of sexual abuse dating to the 1970s.
"Increasingly all around the country, police and prosecutors are getting more creative and resourceful to bring these older molesters to justice," Clohessy said. "Unfortunately, they're being prosecuted on much lighter charges, but in our opinion, better late than never and better lesser charges than no charges at all."
McGuire is charged with five felony counts of indecent behavior with a child, a statute on the books in the late 1960s that has been updated to deal more explicitly with sexual assault.
"It's not a crime that we're used to dealing with, but it's going to boil down to the same thing: sexual contact with an underage person," Koss said.
This is not the first time an Illinois priest has been tried in Wisconsin after Cook County officials declined to prosecute.
The Cook County state's attorney's office decided not to prosecute Rev. Norbert Maday in 1992 on what it called insufficient evidence. Maday later was convicted in Winnebago County,s., molesting two boys in separate 1986 outings to central Wisconsin. He is serving a 20-year sentence.
McGuire's accusers first took their allegations to the Cook County state's attorney, said Tom Stanton, a spokesman for that office. But because Illinois' statute of limitations from the 1960s mandated that charges be filed within three years, Cook County could not prosecute and encouraged the men to approach Wisconsin authorities, Stanton said.
The lone detective in the Fontana (Wis.) Police Department investigated for about nine months before a criminal complaint was filed in 2005, Koss said.
"We tried to keep an open mind to figure out what happened," Koss said.
In the criminal complaint, McGuire is accused of molesting one of the boys four times on trips to the boy's uncle's home in Fontana, a town of 2,000 on Lake Geneva. That accuser, now 53 and living in Massachusetts, told investigators that he also had frequent sexual contact with McGuire at Loyola Academy while they slept in the same bed.
The other accuser, who is 52 and lives in Arizona, said in the complaint that he was molested once at the Fontana home and that he too was touched while living at McGuire's Loyola residence. Both accusers are identified only by their initials in the criminal complaint.
Koss said the boys lived with McGuire, with their families' permission, at different times.
"You have to think it was probably an honor then that a priest would take that much concern for your child," Koss said.
The younger boy revealed the assaults to a priest at the time, Koss said. The priest told the detective that he reported the claim to officials at Loyola Academy, the complaint says.
The boy transferred to St. Ignatius high school in Chicago and McGuire, who began teaching classical Greek and theology at Loyola Academy in 1966, left in 1970 to attend graduate school at Loyola University, Koss said.
McGuire later taught and led freshman retreats at the University of San Francisco, according to a Jesuit Web site.
Loyola Academy deferred comment to the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, the local Jesuit order, which declined to answer questions about McGuire.
The two accusers filed civil lawsuits against McGuire and the local order in 2003. Both dropped McGuire as a defendant after the criminal charges were filed. The suits, which are on hold until the criminal trial is finished, accuse the order of failing to inform law enforcement about the complaints.
When the civil suits were filed, a member of the order said it didn't know about the allegations until that year.
This week, the order issued a three-sentence statement saying it would not discuss the criminal case.
"Our hope is for the truth to be made clear and for justice to be served," it reads. "We pray for all parties involved."
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