Priest Faces Additional Accusations

Associated Press, carried in Pantagraph [Peoria IL]
Downloaded May 7, 2004

PEORIA -- New allegations of sexual abuse have been leveled against a monsignor on leave from his job as head of a Peoria parish and two parochial schools, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria said.

Diocese officials said they could not yet say how many more have accused Monsignor Thomas Miller of sexual misconduct, or release details about times and places.

The new allegations have been leveled since last week, when news organizations reported Miller was accused of abusing a boy nearly 25 years ago, diocese Vice Chancellor Patricia Gibson said.

Miller was placed on administrative leave and agreed to refrain from public ministry during an investigation into the allegations.

Bishop Daniel Jenky held a meeting of the more than 220 priests in the diocese on Thursday to update them on various diocesan issues and to encourage them, said Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, vicar general of the diocese.

"He just wants to assure the priests of his prayers and his concerns," Rohlfs said. "He knows it's difficult when these things happen. When these things happen, it demoralizes them."

A man who is now 36 years old reportedly told diocesan officials on April 23 that an incident allegedly involving sexual misconduct with Miller occurred nearly 25 years ago in Bloomington. Miller was an assistant at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bloomington then.

Diocesan officials said it was coincidence that the man came forward shortly before it was to be announced that Miller would be transferred back to Holy Trinity.

According to a diocesan statement, the popular pastor "denied key elements of the allegations and admitted others." Rohlfs also said on Thursday he would take Miller's place at St. Vincent's, a move that already had been planned.

Since 1950, 14 priests from the diocese have been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors, according to figures provided for the first church-sanctioned tally of abuse cases. The investigation into Miller is the first in the 26-county Peoria diocese since new church guidelines were established for handling sex abuse allegations after the abuse problem rose to national prominence two years ago.


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