Victim Describes Abuse by Priest 30 Years Ago
Man Says He Wants to Be Sure Officials 'Fix the System'
By Cathleen Falsani
May 29, 2002
Room 208. The reading room. It was down the hall from the balcony, near the office, on the second floor of St. Catherine of Alexandria school in Oak Lawn.
The man's memory of what happened there is clear, even though it was more than 30 years ago.
He'd thrown a spitball. The teacher caught him. He had to go see "Father" to be disciplined.
"Father" was the Rev. Donald Mulsoff, one of St. Catherine's pastors. Mulsoff gave him a choice, the man remembers: Write "I will not throw spitballs" again and again and again, and have his parents called, or take a "bare-bottom spanking." He chose the spanking.
"I took my pants down and leaned over his lap, with my shirt bunched up around my shoulders," the man, who is now in his 40s and who spoke only on the condition his name not be published, said Tuesday. "I had to lay there for what seemed like a long time and then he touched my rear end . . . and I felt a few taps. There was no penetration."
Then, the man said, he got up, pulled his pants back on and faced the priest.
"One of the things I remember most about it was him looking at me afterward and so seriously saying, 'You can never, ever say a word of this to anyone ever again. . . . He said, 'If you do, you'll get fire and brimstone and 10 times worse punishment.' "
Only as an adult, the man said, did he question the propriety of what happened.
Mulsoff, 58, was removed last week as associate pastor of St. Celestine parish in Elmwood Park and sent to an undisclosed location after two people filed complaints accusing the priest of sexually abusing them more than 25 years ago, while they were minors, at St. Catherine and Mary Queen of Heaven in Cicero. Mulsoff was ordained in May 1969 and, after leaving St. Catherine in 1974, went on to serve five other parishes in the Chicago archdiocese.
The man who remembers the spanking in Room 208 said Tuesday he also complained to the archdiocese--a decade ago, around Christmastime in 1992.
Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, said an anonymous complaint about Mulsoff was made in 1992, but archdiocesan officials weren't able to investigate then.
"When you have someone who won't tell you who they are, you can't interview them," Dwyer said Monday.
On Tuesday, after the man questioned Dwyer's version of events, Dwyer said: "All I can confirm is his anonymous allegation. I don't remember saying that he refused to be interviewed. He refused to give his name."
The man said he didn't trust church officials to keep his name confidential, that he was setting up a business and that he also didn't want his parents, who still live in the parish, to be harassed. But he said a church administrator, in several phone conversations in 1993, told him the archdiocese did investigate Mulsoff then.
"They told me that they brought the guy in, that he admitted to doing something foolish . . . that he agreed to go for treatment and that they would monitor him closely--those three things," he said Tuesday.
Last month, along with Barbara Blaine, founder of the Support Network of those Abused by Priests, the man met with Cardinal Francis George at the cardinal's Gold Coast mansion and said he told the cardinal about the alleged abuse and what happened when he tried to report it. He said the cardinal promised to look into his allegations about Mulsoff.
A prosecutor from the Cook County state's attorney's office interviewed the man in April. That investigation is ongoing, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office said. But, because the alleged abuse happened more than 30 years ago, it's likely that, even if confirmed, it could not be prosecuted because anything that happened is beyond the statute of limitations.
The man said he has an appointment later this week with Kathleen Laggedes, administrator of the archdiocese's independent Fitness Review Board, the nine-member, lay and clergy board created by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in September 1992 to hear allegations of clerical sexual abuse with minors.
But the man isn't optimistic the Chicago archdiocese will handle anything differently this time. And he wants to make one thing clear:
"I'm not suing. I don't need the money. I told them in '92 I had no intention of suing and I have no intention of suing now. My reason for doing this is just so they fix the system and get this guy out of access.
"I was relieved that the other [allegations] that happened, happened 25 years ago," he said. "If [they] happened in the last 10 years, I would have felt really bad."
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