Priest Charged in Sex Case
Will County Clergyman Accused of Molesting Brothers in 1990s
By Matthew Walberg and Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune [Joliet IL]
December 22, 2006
A Carmelite priest convicted of child molestation in Georgia in the 1970s has been indicted by a Will County grand jury on charges of sexually abusing two teenage brothers in the 1990s.
The indictment returned Thursday against Rev. Louis Rogge, 76, of Joliet charges him with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He surrendered to the Will County Sheriff's Department and was released after posting 10 percent of his $40,000 bail, said Charles Pelkie, spokesman for State's Atty. James Glasgow.
Rogge was a "spiritual adviser" to a family when he abused one boy during the summer of 1996 and fondled his younger brother three years later, according to the indictment. The men, now 25 and 22, were 15 when the alleged abuse occurred, Pelkie said.
Rogge's case is, in a way, the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal writ small: abuse, followed by treatment and restoration to ministry, then more allegations.
Even before reports of abuse surfaced last year, Rogge had been relegated to private ministry and was prohibited from wearing clerical garb because he pleaded guilty to child molestation in Athens, Ga., in 1974, said Rev. John Welch, provincial for the Carmelites of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Darien.
"That was apparently an incident with a family he knew," Welch said, adding records indicate Rogge was not in Athens in a religious capacity. "Basically, it was inappropriate touching--I think it was with a boy."
He was sentenced to 6 years' probation, but "after two years of counseling and other personal work, and having his ministry restricted to adults, in 1976, the remaining four years of probation were canceled," Welch said. "He was permitted--with the consultation of the counselors that were working with him--to return to ministry."
Allowing him to resume his ministry, "were the standards and policies of that day," Welch said.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said those standards and policies remained even after a church report in 1985 warned of the risk posed by perpetrators allowed to stay in ministry. The danger of recidivism among molesters has prompted law enforcement in many states to develop sex-offender registries and hold those convicted even after sentences end.
But Blaine said bishops continued to express faith in rehabilitation.
"If they did believe [in rehabilitation], they had no reason to," she said. "I suppose it's the same people who didn't want to believe the earth was round."
After pressure from victims' advocates and the scandal that erupted in the Boston archdiocese, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a zero-tolerance policy in 2002.
Rogge's case is unusual because fewer than 2 percent of priests accused of sexual abuse have faced criminal prosecution. That's largely because of problems with statutes of limitations; many of the allegations are decades old and not prosecutable, experts say.
"We believe this is the first case of sex abuse involving a Catholic priest to be charged in Will County since the Catholic sex abuse national scandal in 2002," Pelkie said.
Glasgow said it is almost a miracle that his office is able to prosecute the 1996 case because at that time, the statute of limitations for minors who were sexually abused expired one year after the 18th birthday.
"The case was close to expiring, but the Illinois General Assembly extended the statute to age 21," Glasgow said. "Then another amendment extended the statute to 10 years after your 18th birthday, and now it's 20 years.
"I think the legislature was reacting to a public outcry that prosecutors' hands were tied because victims of sex abuse, due to fear, embarrassment and repression, failed to come forward during the statute of limitations, and so criminal charges could not be brought. By extending it out until 20 years after the 18th birthday, it greatly expanded prosecutors' abilities to bring people who perpetrate sexual crimes against children to justice," Glasgow said.
Rogge began at the Darien provincial in 1994. He was not assigned to a parish or school, but worked with Carmelite missions, traveling around the country to provide his services to churches and ministries on a short-term basis.
In summer 2002, he was removed from that position after adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which required that any priest who had a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him be removed from public ministry.
Welch, who was in Washington, D.C., at that time, said the order combed through its files and found Rogge's 1974 conviction. He was assigned to the provincial's archives department, where he currently works. Welch said Rogge has no public ministry.
Welch said Rogge is being represented by attorney Cynthia Giacchetti, who could not be reached for comment. He would not say where Rogge lived other than "he's living under supervision at a private residence where we have a Carmelite community. It's in Will County."
Pelkie and Welch said the religious order and diocese have been working with investigators.
"These allegations were made about him in September 2005. The family came to us, and then we notified the diocese of Joliet and they notified the state's attorney," said Welch, adding that the young men and their family have been offered counseling.
Welch said his order has instituted standards to protect children and works with an agency to audit and maintain those standards.
"We take these matters very seriously, and what we would like to do is ensure the safety of young people and children," he said. "We would like a just resolution of the allegations made [against Rogge] and healing for anybody affected by sexual abuse. That's our attitude toward these cases."
Welch said Rogge could remain a member of the order even if convicted. "It doesn't depend on the outcome of the case necessarily. Generally, in these cases, what would happen to the person would be removal from ministry. But that doesn't mean he would be excluded from the [Carmelite] community."
Welch said the order is like a family, in that "if your uncle gets in trouble, you don't necessarily exclude him from the family." He said only when a member "consistently ignores their commitments and responsibilities, then we would move toward exclusion from the brotherhood."
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