Kicanas Questions Documents on Chicago Sex-abuse Case
By Patty Machelor
Arizona Daily Star
January 24, 2014
Newly released court documents about a former Chicago priest sexually abusing students indicate Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas knew of the concerns a year before authorities were notified.
But Kicanas said Thursday that former priest Russell Romano’s deviance was not known until nearly a year later, in 1986, when several victims came forward and allegations became explicit.
It was in 1985 that Rector John Klein of Chicago’s now-defunct Quigley Preparatory Seminary South contacted Kicanas, a former teacher and rector at Quigley, and asked Kicanas’ advice about Romano.
According to Klein’s written memory of the conversation — it is unclear when Klein wrote his recollections – Kicanas told Klein to try a two-part approach: “First, express concern for Russ and his personal problems, and second, to make it clear that the drinking, movies, hugs and kisses with our students must stop immediately.”
Kicanas questions Klein’s recollection of their conversation, and said he wasn’t aware at the time that Romano was watching pornographic movies with the students or providing them with alcohol. Instead, he said he recalls the conversation was about only one student who was uncomfortable with Romano hugging and kissing him.
“It was not uncommon in those days to hug and kiss students,” he said. “It was a very different level to say that someone was being sexually abused.”
He agreed that, by today’s standards and with the church’s history of failing to report sexual abuse, that it “doesn’t sound very good,” but said that at the time he did not think Romano was abusing students.
Instead he said he urged Klein to act quickly and tell Romano to stop making students uncomfortable by being overly affectionate.
“My involvement was very peripheral,” Kicanas said. “Based on what was shared, I think that was important advice.”
According to victims who have come forward since that time, Romano was indeed providing some students with alcohol, as well as showing them pornographic movies, molesting them and forcing them to engage in oral sex.
Chicago attorney Patrick Wall said there are 14 victims so far, most of whom were high school freshmen when the abuse occurred. The current records were released as part of the ongoing litigation.
Wall said Kicanas and Klein knew there was abuse going on, and should have reported the information to the police or child protective services immediately. A school counselor notified the authorities in 1986.
Kicanas became bishop of Tucson in January 2003 when Bishop Manuel D. Moreno took early retirement after heading the local diocese for 21 years. Kicanas, a Chicago native, had served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago before coming to Tucson.