Alleged Victim Demands Charges for Priest

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
November 25, 2003

Lawyers for a 32-year-old man who says a Roman Catholic priest molested him repeatedly in the sacristy of a Far Northwest Side parish in the 1980s have asked Cook County prosecutors to bring criminal charges against the priest.

The man, who under the name "John Doe 75B" filed a civil lawsuit Monday against the Rev. John Baptist Ormechea and his Passionist religious order, said Ormechea kissed and fondled him when he was an altar boy at Immaculate Conception parish, 7211 W. Talcott, from 1981 to 1986.

Ormechea, 66, now lives in Rome, according to Sheila Genson, an attorney for John Doe 75B. The Passionists moved Ormechea from Chicago to St. Louis in 1988, and later to Louisville, Ky. The order was first alerted to allegations of sexual misconduct against Ormechea in 1985, according to the lawsuit.

Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Shauna Boliker said she met with the man and his attorneys Monday to discuss whether criminal charges might be brought against Ormechea.

"We're investigating right now," said Boliker, chief of the sex crimes unit for the Cook County prosecutors' office. "There are a couple of things I need to start looking into in terms of time and the statute of limitations."

In July, Gov. Blagojevich signed a new law allowing prosecutors to file criminal charges in child sex abuse cases up to 20 years after the accuser turns 18. Previously, prosecutors could only file criminal charges if the accuser was younger than 28.

Jeffrey Anderson, another of John Doe 75B's attorneys, said he'd like Cook County authorities to extradite Ormechea from Italy to face charges here.

Last December, Ormechea resigned from his position as pastor of St. Agnes parish in Louisville after an investigation by Cook County prosecutors determined he had sexually abused four boys at Immaculate Conception parish between 1978 and 1981. At the time, the statute of limitations prevented Cook County authorities from prosecuting Ormechea.

A fifth man and his parents filed a civil lawsuit against Ormechea and the Passionists in February, alleging the priest abused the man, now 27, at Immaculate Conception in 1983.

In that lawsuit, the man and his family said they reported the alleged abuse to the Rev. Michael Higgins, Ormechea's superior and provincial of the Passionist order in the Chicago area, in 1993, but Ormechea was allowed to continue in ministry.

"We're here to say and to report that not only does Father J.B. Ormechea belong in jail, but the head and the officials of the Passionists who have failed to report child abuse are criminals and deserving of prosecution," Anderson said.

"There are criminals in collars who are not only molesting children in the parishes and the schools, in the case of the Passionists, there are criminals wearing collars and operating as officials of the Passionists as we speak," he said.

Anderson singled out Higgins, who he said failed to report accusations of abuse against Ormechea to civil authorities as long ago as 1993 and as recently as January. The lawsuit accuses Higgins and other Passionist officials of orchestrating Ormechea's move out of the Chicago area, to St. Louis, to Kentucky and most recently to Rome after other allegations of sexual abuse against him surfaced.

Boliker declined to comment about whether Higgins could be charged with a crime.

Last week, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cincinnati pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor criminal charges that it failed to report abuse to authorities from 1978 to 1982.

Higgins could not be reached for comment Monday. A statement from the Passionist order said, in part, "Given who we are, the abuse of young people is an affront to our ministry everywhere and opposed to everything which we profess. Along with the whole church throughout the world, we cannot and will not tolerate such abuse."


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