Priest Will Never Return to Ministry
South Side cleric to undergo church trial, sanctions

By Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune
December 4, 2004

Rev. John Calicott, the priest who has been fighting to return to his South Side parish ever since he was removed over sex-abuse allegations, is unlikely to get his wish.

Although Calicott will be granted a canonical trial later this month, the purpose of that process is not to determine guilt or innocence but to seek clarification of the accusations, officials with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago said Friday.

Regardless of the outcome, priests who undergo such trials are not returned to ministry, said Chancellor Jimmy Lago.

The archdiocese forwarded appeals for 14 accused priests, including Calicott, to the Vatican in the summer of 2003. When the rulings came back in August of this year, 12 of the cases were judged to be "clear and grave" enough not to warrant canonical trials. An administrative review of those cases is expected to conclude by the end of the year, when sanctions will be announced.

But in the cases of Calicott and Rev. Thomas Swade, former coordinator of the archdiocese's Office of Racial Justice, the Vatican called for clarification through a trial process. Swade's trial is already under way.

The trials are conducted in Chicago before a three-person church tribunal. Victims can be called as witnesses, although they are not required to testify in person.

"The whole purpose of the canonical trial is to get to the truth," said archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer.

Calicott was removed from ministry at Holy Angels Parish on the South Side in the mid-1990s over abuse allegations from two men. This year a third man filed a civil lawsuit alleging Calicott abused him.

Under rules in place in the 1990s, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin permitted Calicott to return to Holy Angels after he confessed to the abuses and signed a covenant with his congregation that he would never abuse again.

But after U.S. bishops adopted a stricter national child sex-abuse policy at their 2002 meeting in Dallas, eight priests were removed from their jobs in the Chicago archdiocese. At least five of those priests, including Swade and Calicott, filed appeals.

On Friday, officials said none of the 14 accused priests would return to public ministry.

"The Dallas promise was no one will be in public ministry," Cardinal Francis George said. "Public ministry in its clearest form is assigned to a parish and doing regular work as a priest."

Lago said the abuse allegations had been thoroughly vetted and deemed credible before they were sent to the Vatican.

"We reached a certain level of certitude," Lago said. The trial process "doesn't change the commitment that the cardinal made. If there is an offense in the priest's past, whether it reaches the canonical level or not, he will not put someone back in ministry."


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