Peoria Bishop Removes 8th Priest in Diocese

By David Heinzmann
Chicago Tribune
June 8, 2002

The bishop of Peoria announced Friday that he has removed a Galesburg hospital chaplain from ministry, marking the eighth Roman Catholic priest that Bishop Daniel R. Jenky has removed in his short tenure because of allegations they sexually abused minors.

Rev. Michael R. Van Acker had been head of pastoral care, the hospital's chief chaplain, at St. Mary's Medical Center since 1993. He took the job after a one-year leave of absence, according to diocesan records.

Patricia Gibson, the diocese's vice chancellor, said an alleged victim came forward in the weeks after Jenky's installation as bishop April 10. After church officials investigated the allegation, Van Acker agreed to step down this week.

The medical center's chief financial officer, Curt Lipe, said there was no evidence that any abuse took place at the 150-bed hospital during the priest's nine years there. Diocesan officials would not release details of the allegation, other than that it took place more than 20 years ago.

Van Acker, 50, was ordained in 1981 and was first assigned to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bloomington, Ill. His later assignments included other parishes and two stints as a high school chaplain in the 1980s, at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington and the former Bergan High School in Peoria.

Last week Jenky removed seven priests from ministry, asking them to cease acting as priests, including no longer wearing their Roman collars or using the title of Father or Reverend.

Van Acker has agreed to abide by the same restrictions, Gibson said.

Van Acker applied for another one-year leave of absence about three weeks ago, and his last day on the job at the hospital was about May 24, Lipe said.

The 26-county Peoria diocese has 240,000 members across a wide swath of central Illinois.


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