Rockford Diocese Confirms Claims of Priest Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 8, 2002

The Rockford Diocese said a priest who sexually abused three boys 25 years ago was removed from the ministry in 1997, shortly after the allegations were made.

Bishop Thomas Doran on Tuesday said the priest, Harlan Clapsaddle, underwent treatment and was reassigned to a restrictive setting ministering to the elderly.

Clapsaddle, 57, developed a relationship with the boys' family while he was a deacon at St. James Church in Rockford. Doran said Kevin, Craig and Chad Misslich told the diocese about the abuse in December 1996, and Clapsaddle was removed from his parish in Dixon a month later, when the allegations were confirmed.

"We investigated the charges, determined that they were credible and recommended immediate removal of the priest from his pastoral assignment," Doran said. "This is not a case of a priest doing wrong, then being assigned to another pastoral post and now finally being removed from that post. I am convinced that the diocese acted responsibly."

The bishop said officials did not contact law enforcement about the abuse because the statute of limitations had passed and the family did not want the matter handled that way.

But Kevin Misslich, who lives in New Jersey, said his family urged the diocese to tell authorities about Clapsaddle and seek other potential victims. He said the family refused the diocese's offer of free, monitored therapy and instead each brother accepted $27,500 for treatment and signed confidentiality agreements.

"We were never told to go to the police. We were encouraged by the diocese to keep quiet," Misslich said.

On Tuesday, the bishop said another claim of abuse against Clapsaddle was made six weeks ago, but that person did not want to go public and made no demands for action. Doran encouraged others who might have been abused to contact police and the diocese.

After returning from treatment in the summer of 1997, Clapsaddle was assigned to a ministry at Provena Cor Mariae, a nursing home affiliated with a Catholic organization, which Doran called "a supervised setting."

But a nursing home spokesman said officials there knew nothing about Clapsaddle's history until May 1, so they had no reason to monitor him. Clapsaddle resigned from the nursing home ministry May 3.


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