Paying the Price
Chicago Catholic Archdiocese Removes 3 Priests in Healthcare-Affiliated Roles

By Mark Taylor
Modern Healthcare
July 1, 2002

Two chaplains from a Chicago area hospital and nursing home and a liaison to the Archdiocese's Office of Health and Hospital Affairs resigned or were dismissed from their ministry duties because of allegations of sexual misconduct, the archdiocese announced late last month.

They were among 12 Roman Catholic priests-including four retired priests who will not be allowed to wear clerical garb-who were withdrawn from the Chicago Archdiocese within the past month after being accused of sexually molesting minors.

That's in addition to at least six hospital chaplains suspended around the country in recent months in the ongoing abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church (May 13, p. 6).

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Archdiocese said the Rev. Richard Bartz, 53, a former chaplain at Advocate Ravenswood Medical Center in Chicago, resigned from the priesthood in June in anticipation of his removal from the ministry. The Rev. James Ray, 53, was removed from his position as assistant liaison of the Archdiocese's Office of Health and Hospital Affairs June 18. According to the archdiocese, Ray plans to appeal the decision. Earlier in June the Rev. Marion Snieg, 64, a retired priest and chaplain at the Addolorata Villa retirement community in Wheeling, Ill., was removed from all public ministry.

None of the priests could be reached for comment, and church sources said they have gone into seclusion.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary McDonough said the archdiocese took action after the U.S. Conference of Bishops met last month in Dallas and decided that one substantial allegation of abuse could be the basis for withdrawal from the ministry.

The Rev. Joseph Driscoll, a Catholic priest and the president and chief executive officer of the 3,400-member National Association of Catholic Chaplains, said he is unaware of any other priest chaplains who have resigned or been dismissed in recent weeks. Driscoll said the association did not have a specific policy in place relating to sexual misconduct.

''But we're looking at developing one now,'' Driscoll said. ''Our code of ethics covers the issue, but we want this to be perfectly clear. We are reviewing all of our policies.''

Ray was removed in 1991 from a parish in Lake County, Ill., because of alleged sexual misconduct with a minor. An archdiocesan institutional review board composed of a social worker, psychologist, lawyer and sexual abuse victim, among others, reviewed Ray's case and permitted his return to an administrative ministry, said McDonough. His most recent assignment was with the Office of Health and Hospital Affairs, which acts as a liaison between the diocese and its local Catholic hospitals. Ray is appealing the decision to be removed.

McDonough said Bartz served as a chaplain at Columbus Hospital in Chicago from 1988 until it closed in 2001, when he went to nearby Advocate Ravenswood Medical Center as an employee of the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch. Advocate Ravenswood declined to comment and referred questions to CINN spokesman Peter Breen, who said company policy prevented him from commenting on employees.

Breen refused to answer questions about Bartz or acknowledge whether the CINN has a policy prohibiting the hiring of chaplains with a history of sexual abuse but said: ''We would handle any and all situations appropriately.''

In the late 1980s, Bartz served on the faculty of the University of St. Mary on the Lake-Mundelein Seminary, where he allegedly had sex with a male minor. He left the seminary and was placed on indefinite leave. In 1988, he was allowed to return to the ministry at Columbus Hospital but was monitored by a hospital employee and was not permitted to be alone with minors. The institutional review board, which was formed in 1992, reviewed his case the next year and upheld the restrictions and placements, McDonough said.

Snieg was removed from all public ministry at Addolorata Villa, where he had served the past eight years. McDonough said he was removed because of recently received accusations that he'd engaged in sex with more than one minor at a Chicago parish years earlier. The independent review board recommended his removal. Snieg formally retired from Addolorata in January but continued to work there part time.

''When we found out about the allegations, as a matter of policy we immediately placed him on administrative leave, which led to his subsequent retirement,'' said Frank Buccitelli, director of corporate marketing at the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corp., the parent company of Addolorata. Franciscan used to own hospitals and still operates 13 senior housing facilities in five states.

Driscoll said that since 1990, the association's code of ethics has prohibited it from certifying as chaplains priests who are known to be pedophiles.

''Anyone who came to our attention was fired, and certification as a chaplain removed,'' Driscoll said. ''So far that has only happened once.''

He said the association itself cannot fire the chaplain, but it contacts the local bishop and asks him to remove his endorsement of the chaplain.

The Rev. Michael Place, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, pointed out that the CHA is not a policy organization that establishes rules for its 613 member institutions. That is done by the bishops, he said. Place said chaplains must be certified in pastoral care. Individual hospital policies and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services determine who is hired as a chaplain.

But Place said, ''We have an obligation to make sure (children) are not in harm's way.''


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.