Archdiocese of Chicago sued over priest accused of sexually abusing altar boy at elementary school and parish on Lower West Side in ’90s

Chicago Tribune

April 24, 2024

By Rebecca Johnson

The Archdiocese of Chicago is facing a lawsuit in connection with a former priest accused of sexually abusing and exploiting an altar boy at a now-closed elementary school and parish on the city’s Lower West Side.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that the Rev. John Keehan repeatedly sexually abused an unnamed boy from 1994 to 1997 while he attended St. Ann Elementary School and Parish. It also accuses the archdiocese of failing to properly supervise Keehan and of putting children in danger due to Keehan’s known history of abuse.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese said they don’t comment on lawsuits, claims or settlements.

Keehan was named as a Catholic cleric who has committed “substantiated child sex abuse” in the Illinois attorney general’s 2023 report on Catholic clergy child sex abuse in Illinois. According to the report, at least two survivors have made substantiated claims against Keehan, who was removed from public ministry in 2002.

According to the lawsuit, allegations of sexual misconduct against Keehan began shortly after he was ordained as a priest in 1967, and the archdiocese frequently reassigned Keehan between around nine parishes and schools within the Chicagoland area, including St. Basil, Our Lady of Lourdes and Holy Innocents.

It said at least six people have reported being abused by Keehan when they were minors, involving sexual grooming and assault on school property.

“The archdiocese chose to allow this known-perpetrator priest to oversee approximately 300 children at St. Ann’s. This lawsuit is a direct result of the archdiocese’s institutional failures, which have left a wake of destruction in the lives of countless survivors,” attorney Valerie Letko said.

As a result of the alleged abuse, the man, now 40, suffers emotional and physical distress and loss of his religious faith, according to the lawsuit. He’s the third former student at St. Ann to file a lawsuit against the archdiocese related to abuse by Keehan.

The man learned of the archdiocese’s “culpability in the abuse and exploitation he was subjected to” after receiving a letter in the mail in February, which outlined Keehan’s “long history of sexually abusing minors,” the lawsuit says.

“This lawsuit, which is the second lawsuit we have filed involving Father Keehan, aims to obtain that justice for our client and encourage the other survivors of Father Keehan’s abuse to come forward so they can obtain justice and some sense of closure as well,” attorney Martin Gould said.

The plaintiffs are seeking more than $50,000 and court costs.

The archdiocese has spent at least $220 million in settling cases involving clergy sex abuse of minors.,Ann%20Elementary%20School%20and%20Parish.