Berwyn Girl, 15, Testifies She Was Abused by Priest

By Leon Pitt
Chicago Sun-Times
December 10, 1992

A 15-year-old Berwyn girl trembled and sobbed but held her composure Wednesday while testifying against a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing her in the church rectory.

The girl - then 13 and an eight-grader at St. Odilo's Roman Catholic Church in Berwyn - said the Rev. Robert E. Mayer, 53, unexpectedly and without uttering a word, fondled her on a rectory couch in January, 1991.

"He moved over (closer to me), his left thigh was touching my right thigh," she recalled. When she moved away from him, "he moved" toward her, the girl said, her words muffled by tears.

Mayer, the first Chicago archdiocesan priest since 1985 to be indicted in Cook or Lake counties on sexual abuse charges, then put his left arm on the back of the couch but did not touch her with it, she testified.

The girl hesitated and began to sob, but regained her composure after Mayer's defense attorney, Patrick Tuite, objected to her "possible hysterics."

She then told Criminal Court Judge Thomas P. Durkin, who is hearing the case without a jury, that Mayer "took his right hand and put it down my blouse . . . for a few seconds.

"Then he put his hand under my skirt."

She said she then grabbed her jacket and purse and left the rectory, where she had gone to deliver a letter from her mother allowing her to convert to Catholicism.

Asked why she didn't report the incident until mid-October, 1991, about four months after Mayer was removed from the parish after sexual conduct charges were brought by an adult male, she said as her voice broke:

"I was afraid and I was embarrassed what everybody would think - they would blame me." Several of her sisters and other family members in the courtroom wept as she spoke.

Neither she nor Mayer said anything during the encounter, the girl testified.

Mayer appeared solemn during her testimony. The priest is expected to testify today. He faces three to seven years in prison if convicted.

Despite repeated attempts by Tuite to extract the exact date of the alleged incident, the girl was adamant that she did not remember.

Two former altar boys and classmates of the girl, who testified that Mayer had told them he wanted to have sex with her, also said they could not recall the exact date the statement was made.

The statement allegedly was made during the boys' sex-education classes taught by Mayer. At one session, Mayer suggested that the girl be used as a "visual and demonstrative aid," one of the boys testified.

In those classes, the boy said, Mayer used "very disgusting terms, street names for sexual positions and types of organs. He discussed sex so vividly as if he had done the acts himself."

Durkin refused a defense motion to acquit Mayer after prosecutors Mark Cavins and Roseanne Pulia rested their case Wednesday evening.

Since Mayer's indictment, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has removed from their parishes 21 priests accused of sexual misconduct.

In 1985, the Rev. Robert D. Friese was convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy who was living at a state home for troubled youths in Des Plaines. Friese was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service work and contribute to the boy's education.


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