Diocese discloses names of priests who sexually abused minors

Journal Register

November 29, 2018

By Steven Spearie

The Diocese of Springfield on Thursday afternoon, in response to a review by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, released the names of 19 priests — including a former bishop — that it confirmed were the subjects of substantiated charges of sexually abusing children.

Though individual priests may have been identified over the years, the Springfield Diocese confirmed that this is the first comprehensive list of abuse cases it has ever released.

A diocesan review board had determined that the priests named on the lists had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The Review Board, which has been in place since 2002, has been comprised of predominantly lay people with professional backgrounds in areas such as state and local law enforcement, criminal and civil law, education, and psychology, the diocese said.

“Any single case of abuse is one too many,” Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said in a statement. “But this review has shown the positive impact of a zero-tolerance approach, and we are committed to sustain these efforts with heightened vigilance.”

Twelve priests on the list are dead. They were Alvin Campbell, Robert Dodd, Michael Driscoll, Robert Eagear, George Faller, Ray Franzen, George Kromenaker, Joseph C. O’Brien, Frank O’Hara, Daniel Ryan, Aloysius Schwellenbach and Frank Westhoff.

Ryan, who abruptly resigned as bishop in 1999, died in 2015. An independent investigative report in 2006 stated that Ryan fostered “a culture of secrecy” in the diocese that discouraged priests from coming forward with information about sexual misconduct by other priests in the diocese, which covers 28 counties in central Illinois.

The 2006 report, authored by Springfield attorney and former state’s attorney and federal attorney Bill Roberts, said Ryan “engaged in sexual misconduct with adults and used his authority to conceal this misconduct.” Ryan was never charged or prosecuted.

Four other priests named on Thursday — Joseph Cernich, Eugene Costa, Joseph Havey and Walter Weerts — were listed as laicized, or having been removed from the priesthood. As such, the diocese does not keep records on their whereabouts, said spokeswoman Marlene Mulford.

Three names were denoted as no longer in ministry, a designation for priests without the faculties of priesthood: Garrett Neal Dee, Robert DeGrand and Francis Tebangura.

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