Priest Faces New Sex-Abuse Lawsuit

By Angela Rozas
Chicago Tribune
November 25, 2003

A 32-year-old man filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Rev. John Baptist Ormechea of the Chicago-based Passionist religious order of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy in the 1980s.

It is the sixth allegation of sexual abuse against Ormechea, who was moved from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 7211 W. Talcott Ave. in Chicago, in 1988 to a church in Louisville. He was later relieved of his duties there after Cook County prosecutors notified Passionist order officials of allegations of sexual abuse.

Lawyers for the man, identified as John Doe 75B, say he was abused between 1981 and 1986 when Ormechea presided over masses in Immaculate Conception. The man was kissed and fondled by Ormechea in the church's sacristy as well as on rides home, said Sheila Genson, one of the man's attorneys.

The suit also accuses the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the Congregation of the Passion, including its head, Rev. Michael Higgins, of knowing about the alleged abuse and failing to report them to authorities. The man's attorneys allege that the archdiocese and the Passionists knew as early as 1985 about other allegations of abuse, but failed to report them.

Higgins released a prepared statement, but an order spokesman would not comment further, saying the order had just been made aware of the lawsuit.

"It is with deep regret that we have learned that a civil lawsuit was filed today against our community," the statement read in part. "Given who we are, the abuse of young people is an affront to our ministry everywhere and opposed to everything to which we profess. Along with the whole Church throughout the world, we cannot and will not tolerate such abuse."

Archdiocese spokesman James Dwyer said church officials did not know they were being sued and would not comment until they see the suit.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney said the office is investigating the alleged sexual abuse, but would not elaborate.

In December, the order removed Ormechea as pastor of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Louisville after the state's attorney's office contacted officials there about alleged abuse. Investigators allege that Ormechea had abused four minors between 1978 and 1981 when he was at Immaculate Conception. The statute of limitations prevented authorities from prosecuting, they said.

A 27-year-old man sued in February, also accusing Ormechea of abuse.


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