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  Priest Quits Because of Acts Here
Went to Texas after Therapy to End Abuse

By Lisa Kernek
State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
July 2, 2002

A Texas priest left his parish last week after acknowledging that he had sexually abused children while in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield years ago.

The Rev. G. Neal Dee resigned Friday from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Groom, Texas, according to Monsignor Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Amarillo. Dee acknowledged the abuse during a parish assembly Thursday night, said Waldow, who attended the meeting. "He was very open that he had sexual misconduct in his past with minors in the Diocese of Springfield," Waldow said Monday.

Dee sought therapeutic treatment before his arrival in the Diocese of Amarillo and has not committed any offenses there, Waldow added.

Dee won't continue working for the Texas diocese and has left Groom, about 40 miles east of Amarillo, Waldow said. He noted that Dee, who could not be reached Monday, can retire after his 65th birthday, which is in November.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted last month by the nation's Catholic bishops, stipulates that "for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor- past, present, or future - the offending priest or deacon will be permanently removed from ministry."

Dee resigned after a Westmont, Ill., man came forward alleging that he had been abused by Dee in the 1960s in the Diocese of Springfield.

The Springfield Diocese received an e-mail April 26 from the Westmont man seeking Dee's whereabouts. The Rev. John Renken, vicar general for the diocese, responded in a letter that Dee was a pastor in Texas.

"We are informed that Father Dee continues in on-going therapy and has given no evidence of lapse," Renken wrote in the letter. "We here in Springfield would be happy to discuss this further with you if you desire, even so that we may be in a position to share your concerns with local law enforcement officials."

Springfield diocesan officials have not heard again from the Westmont man, Renken said Monday.

But the man has hired Frederic Nessler, a Springfield attorney who has represented other abuse victims.

In a letter dated June 19, Nessler wrote to the Amarillo Diocese asking that Dee be removed immediately from public ministry "in the interest of trusting parents of young children that may be in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church," Nessler said Monday.

He did not reveal his client's name, saying the man is not ready to have his identity made public.

Steven Brady, founder of the Petersburg-based Roman Catholic Faithful, said he also has been in contact with the man from Westmont, a Chicago suburb. The recent crisis in the Catholic Church prompted the man to learn whether Dee was still in the priesthood, Brady said. The alleged victim told Brady that the abuse occurred in Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield during the 1960s.

"He was just so outraged that this guy was still a pastor," Brady said.

The Diocese of Springfield likely notified the Diocese of Amarillo of Dee's past abuse when he moved to Texas, officials from both dioceses said Monday.

"When priests transfer from one place to another, there's bound to be disclosure," said Waldow - particularly in the case of Dee, who had spent time in a therapeutic program.

Renken said, "Generally when a priest goes from one diocese to the next, the dioceses are very open about sharing everything in the file."

Why, then, was Dee allowed to continue serving as a priest in Texas?

At the time, diocesan officials were operating on the belief that all sexual abusers could be rehabilitated and returned to society, said Cathy Lexa, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Amarillo.

Errant priests "were brought in to the diocese with the knowledge that they had a disease and they were cured," Lexa said. The belief was that "they deserved to be back in the priesthood and to be where God has called them," she said.

The charter adopted last month, however, acknowledged that past secrecy had created an atmosphere that in some cases enabled sexual abuse to be repeated.

Diocesan officials in Amarillo and Springfield said that the Westmont man is the only person so far who has made allegations against Dee.

Dee was ordained in 1964 and served as associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Springfield beginning the same year, according to a diocesan directory provided by Brady. Dee went on to serve in other parishes: St. Mary's in Alton in 1968; Holy Family in Decatur in 1971; St. Boniface in Edwardsville in 1973; and, beginning in 1976, Little Flower in Springfield.

Dee served as a temporary administrator in St. Matthew parish in Alton and St. Alphonsus in Brighton in 1979. He was pastor at St. Elizabeth in Marine and St. Gertrude in Grantfork in 1980, and at Visitation in Illiopolis and St. Ann in Niantic in 1981. Dee was the Springfield Diocese's director of radio and television communications from 1981 to 1986, a title that no longer exists, and took sick leave in 1987.

Dee went to the Amarillo Diocese in December 1988 and served at parishes in Nazareth and Amarillo before becoming pastor at Immaculate Heart in Groom in April 1998.

Dee is one of six priests who have resigned from the Diocese of Amarillo since May because they are accused of abuse, Lexa said. Five of those priests allegedly committed the abuse in other dioceses, and one priest allegedly committed the offenses in the Amarillo Diocese about 30 years ago.

One of the priests who resigned had even served a two-year prison sentence in California for abuse of a child before going to the Amarillo Diocese, she said.

 
 

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