George Didn't Know Details of Guest Priest's Sex Abuse Case

Chicago Sun-Times
March 1, 2003

A Maryland prosecutor wants to know why Cardinal Francis George didn't ask for details after being told a Delaware priest he had hired as a consultant for the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese-- and invited to stay in his Gold Coast home--had been accused of sexually abusing a teenager.

The Rev. Kenneth C. Martin pleaded guilty Dec. 6, 2001, to sexually abusing a student from 1977 to 1980 at the Roman Catholic high school in Maryland where he taught Spanish, said Stephen Roscher, who prosecuted the case.

"It wasn't like it was something that happened one night when he was drunk," Roscher, a Baltimore County, Md., assistant state's attorney, said Friday. "It was something that happened for two and a half years, at least once a week."

George invited Martin, a liturgy expert, last spring to do editing for the archdiocese-owned Liturgy Training Publications, which has offices on Hermitage next door to St. Mary of the Angels elementary school.

When first asked about Martin in an interview Thursday, the cardinal said Martin had told him about being accused of sexual abuse. George said he phoned Martin's bishop in the Wilmington (Del.) Diocese, who told him Martin was a priest in good standing and that the criminal case against him had been resolved without a conviction.

"That's what I go on," George said in the interview, adding that he didn't ask for details.

"I would have thought that Cardinal George would have wanted to know the details, especially in light of everything that was going on," Roscher said, referring to the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal last spring.

After a report Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse criticized the cardinal for hiring Martin and having him stay in his home.

"I thought, 'He can stay in my house; it's the safest place I know,'" George said Friday, after meeting with members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "But I didn't realize the symbolism of that. In talking to others, what seemed to me to be an obvious practical solution . . . was seen quite differently by others."

On Dec. 14, 2001, Martin was sentenced to "pre-judgment probation," a kind of unsupervised probation in which the conviction can be expunged from his record as long as he remains "law-abiding" for three to five years, Roscher said.

In a phone interview Thursday from George's North State Parkway home, where he typically stays one week a month, Martin said he could not recall whether he had entered a plea to the charges. Martin said the "court had determined there was no guilt."

"That is not correct," Roscher said Friday. "There is no guilty finding on a record for him, but in order for him to get a probation before judgment, the court has to determine he was guilty, and not only did that happen, but he admitted his guilt.... These are not allegations. These are crimes."

Roscher, who described himself as "a very active Catholic who was a seminarian for a long time" before entering law school, said he wanted Martin to go to prison for felony child abuse charge, but the priest's victim asked him not to seek jail time.

"He wanted Martin to have a 'guilty' on his record so that, wherever he goes, people know," the prosecutor recalled. "I have certain feelings about the high obligation clergymen have toward the people they pastor. I hold them to a higher obligation because they are people who are trusted more than the average person."

Martin, who was ordained in 1989, was not a priest when the abuse took place. At the time, he was a lay teacher at an all-boys Jesuit high school in Baltimore's suburbs. Martin taught Spanish and was the head of the language department, Roscher said.

A new policy approved by the Vatican in late December governing the handling of clergy sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church in the United States does not apply to cases of sexual misconduct with children that happen before the man is ordained. Still, bishops have discretion to remove any cleric from public ministry if they deem the man unsuitable for ministry.

Martin, 57, said Thursday he was a priest in good standing in his home diocese and that the bishop there had put no restrictions on his ministry. But Robert Krebs, spokesman for the Wilmington Diocese, said Martin had been temporarily removed from active duty when the allegations against him were investigated and that he underwent psychological evaluation. During that time, the priest asked for a leave of absence, which was granted, Krebs said.

"He is a priest in good standing, but with the understanding that Father Martin wouldn't function in any kind of public ministry," Krebs said.

Several months ago, the Wilmington Diocese appealed to the Vatican to clarify the sexual abuse policy as it might pertain to actions that date to before a priest's ordination, Krebs said. He would not say whether that inquiry was prompted by the Martin case.

Martin's victim, who is now 40 and has a teenage son, said Friday he was angered that Martin would deny his guilt and concerned for the welfare of children the priest might come into contact with in Chicago.

"I really didn't want to take him to court," said the man, who agreed to speak only on the condition that his name not be revealed. "Our intention was not to get any money. I just wanted to make sure he pleaded guilty and that nothing like that would happen to anyone else. As far as I'm concerned, as long as he has absolutely no contact with children or anything like that, I don't care what he does.

"The man pleaded guilty, and he did it. I think the church should know about it, and I think the cardinal should know about it."

Martin's crimes date to 1977, when he was a lay Catholic high school Spanish teacher and head of the foreign language department at Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson, Md. He befriended one of his sophomore students who was struggling with his school work, offering to tutor him in Spanish, according to the victim and evidence that Roscher presented in court.

The boy's grades improved with Martin's help. But, after tutoring sessions, Martin would tell the boy to take off his clothes and lie down on a couch, Roscher said. Martin would masturbate the boy, then climb on top of him and rub his naked genitalia on the boy, the prosecutor said.

This happened once or twice a week for more than two years, Roscher said. Martin also took the boy on trips out of state, to Pennsylvania and Florida, and to New York City to see Broadway plays.

On at least one occasion while he was in high school, the victim said he tried to tell a priest who knew Martin about the abuse but couldn't bring himself to do it. The priest confronted Martin, who got angry at the student.

"He threatened I wouldn't graduate," the victim recalled.

Told the details of the Martin abuse case Friday evening, George said, "That's a little bit sobering.... Those are things I wasn't aware of, nor of the details of the case.

"You trust the conclusions given you. We didn't ask for the details of the case. Perhaps we should have."


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