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  Church May Have Known about Priest's Past

By Jay Levine
CBS 2 Chicago WBBM-TV
February 7, 2005

A young man who charges he was sexually exploited by a priest is now shocked to find out that the man he accused of abuse is working on a local college campus.

On Monday night, CBS 2 News found the priest conducting a service on the University of Chicago campus.

And CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has exclusive information that the archdiocese may have known about his past.

The traditional burning of palm leaves outside Calvert House in Hyde Park was presided over by the Rev. Michael Yakaitis, now chaplain and director of the campus Catholic ministry.

It is not his first campus post. In the early 1990s, he was dean of students at Niles College, a spiritual director for an aspiring seminarian.

"We had been drinking in his suite in seminary," said the man who wished to remain unnamed. "Other students had left, and he started initiating sexual contact."

This young man never graduated with the others in his class at Niles College. He suffered from an emotional breakdown after confronting Father Yakaitis about their year-long relationship.

"He outright threatened me, He said that as dean of students, he was required to divulge the fact that I was participating in homosexual behavior, that I would be expelled from the seminary, outed to my family and outed to the archdiocese."

It took two years for him to summon the courage to report what had happened.

He told the well-respected Father John Canary, then vicar for priests, now head of Mundelein Seminary.

"Father Canary did tell me that he had confirmed my account, and that they would see to it that Father Yakaitis would never be allowed in a situation where he could victimize someone like he had victimized me."

Father Canary tonight confirms the young man's story and says he was "not part of the process" that placed Yakaitis in Hyde Park.

"Was I consulted? No," he says. "Did I express my concern to the archdiocese when I found out? Yes."

Last week, the victim found out where Yakaitis was now.

"I was stunned and when I got alone. I was devastated. I literally was shaking," he said.

Not wanting to interrupt the prayer service Monday night, CBS 2 crews waited until well after Father Yakaitis had gone inside and the fire was extinguished before trying to speak with him.

"He's down in the house with the kids right now. We have a big party," said the woman at the door. "He's not available."

The man accusing Yakaitis of abuse is mainly concerned about the University of Chicago students.

A university spokesman said Monday night if the allegations are true, they're of great concern.

The archdiocese was responsible for the assignment. It's now looking into how a priest accused of sexually exploiting young college students was reassigned to another college.

 
 

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