February 26, 2021
By Robert Herguth
The order’s Midwest leader blames the difficulty of corroborating allegations. Other Catholic orders have released such lists over the past few years
Eight clerics belonging to the Dominican religious order that runs a Catholic high school in Oak Park and who served in the Chicago area at some point have been accused of molesting children.
That’s according to a report a group of lawyers who have been suing the church over sex-abuse accusations put out in 2019.
And three years ago, Cardinal Blase Cupich urged all religious orders serving in the Chicago area to publish lists of members who have credibly been accused of child sexual abuse, with such lists serving as tools of transparency and healing for the victims.
But the Dominicans — who run Fenwick High School and also staff a handful of parishes around Chicago — still haven’t released such a list and say they don’t know whether the order ever will do so.
“The province has made no decision with respect to a public listing of the names of those who have substantiated allegations against them,” the Rev. James Marchionda, who has the title of prior provincial as the leader of the Dominican Friars’ central province, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a letter in response to questions. “It remains under consideration.
“We have struggled with the process of reliably and fairly determining the credibility of allegations that were first made known to the province decades after the abuse is alleged to have occurred, most often after the accused friar has died and when corroborating or contrary evidence is no longer available,” wrote Marchionda, whose territory includes the Midwest.
That’s a challenge other religious orders have encountered as well. Yet many of those groups that serve in the Chicago area have released their own lists over the past few years — among them the Jesuits, the Carmelites, the Norbertines, the Vincentians and the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
And other orders say they are in the process of creating such lists.
Some church leaders have said doing so helps the public get a better handle on the scope of priest sex abuse that has ravaged the church in the United States over the last 30-plus years — and hollowed out church finances because of the resulting litigation.
Marchionda says his jurisdiction has had “one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the province who was, at the time, ministering within the Archdiocese of Chicago,” which includes Cook and Lake counties. He says that involved a former pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in River Forest whose actions dated to the 1970s and against him an accusation was made in 2002.
“In 2017, the province received an allegation that a deceased former member of the province abused a Fenwick High School student in 1970,” according to Marchionda. “The friar became a member of another province in 1979 and died in 1989.
“The province does not have sufficient information to make a reliable determination as to whether the alleged abuse occurred.”
Separately, in 1997, two siblings reported that a religious brother molested them in 1979 when they attended Chicago’s Holy Trinity High School and he was assigned there, according to Marchionda, who says that “although there was no formal investigation, the accusers appeared to be credible.”