Peoria Diocese Defrocks Three Retired Priests
November 2, 2018
Three retired priests who had served parishes in the Illinois Valley have been removed from the ministry, the Diocese of Peoria said in a press release issued Thursday.
The Rev. George Hiland, the Rev. Duane Leclercq and the Rev. John Onderko all have been required to step down from public ministry over what Bishop Daniel Jenky, in the release, termed “credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”
The press release disclosed the following allegations:
“Effective immediately, Hiland, Leclercq and Onderko can no longer function as Catholic priests in any public capacity, wear clerical garb or the Roman collar, and are to refrain from using the title ‘Reverend’ or ‘Father,’” Jenky said in the press release.
All allegations have been turned over to the respective state’s attorney’s offices, Jenky said, in keeping with diocesan policy on allegations of child sexual abuse.
Hiland, whose age was not immediately available, served at area parishes including St. Stephen in Streator (1958-1971) and St. Patrick in Arlington (1971-1976). He retired (granted senior status in church parlance) in 1994.
Leclercq, 80, had served at St. Theresa in Earlville (1989-1991), St. Patrick in La Salle (1994-2003), Sacred Heart in Granville and St. Patrick, Hennepin (2003-2008). He retired in 2008.
Onderko, 82, had served at St. Hyacinth in La Salle (1962, 1965-1980), Holy Cross in Mendota and Sts. Peter and Paul, Peterstown (1980-1981) and Resurrection in La Salle (1993-2005). He retired in 2005.
The announcement comes two weeks after a lawsuit was filed in Chicago against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Illinois’ five downstate dioceses, including Peoria, which covers 26 counties.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jeff Anderson, sought to compel dioceses throughout Illinois to provide the names of all their priests accused of child molestation.
“Defendants have, for decades, and continue to adopt policies and practices of covering up criminal activity...(that) have endangered numerous children in the past and these practices will continue to put children at risk in the future,” reads the lawsuit against all six dioceses in Illinois, as well as the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
While the lawsuit does seek damages and only claims instances of abuse against children in three dioceses — Rockford, Peoria and Springfield — all of them have been and continue to cover up clergy sexual abuse, Anderson said.
In a statement released at the time of the lawsuit’s filing, Peoria defended its handling of allegations against two priests named in the lawsuit. In one case, the diocese said that upon learning of the allegations it immediately placed the priest on leave and reported the allegation to police. Only after the police concluded its investigation, and the Diocesan Review commission found the allegation unsubstantiated, was the priest reinstated in ministry.
The other priest, according to the Peoria diocese, was removed from all public ministry in 2002.