Earlville Priest Removed for Sexual Misconduct

By Jonathan Bilyk
The Times
February 24, 2006

EARLVILLE -- A Roman Catholic priest who has ministered at churches in La Salle County and throughout Central Illinois for almost two decades has resigned as administrator at St. Theresa Church in Earlville after allegations surfaced of sexual misconduct with a minor about 25 years ago.

The Rev. William Virtue, acting at the request of Peoria Diocese Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, stepped down as leader of the small parish church in northern La Salle County, according to a statement issued Thursday by the Diocese of Peoria.

Virtue, who has served as administrator at St. Theresa since 2005, had ministered previously at the Earlville church from 1996 to 1999 and at Sacred Heart Church in Granville and St. Theresa Church in Cedar Point in 1992, in addition to six other ministry assignments in the diocese since 1988.

While the accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor was made recently, the diocese said the allegations deal with a matter that occurred while Virtue was serving as a priest in the Joliet Diocese about 25 years ago.

Repeated attempts to reach a spokesperson for the Joliet Diocese were unsuccessful Friday.

According to the statement released Thursday, the Peoria Diocese was unaware of these allegations at the time Virtue began ministering within the diocese April 18, 1988.

Under the terms of his resignation, Virtue has agreed not to function as a Catholic priest in any public capacity, to no longer wear clerical garb or the Roman Catholic collar and to refrain from using the title "Reverend" or "Father."

Virtue has denied the allegations, the statement said, and maintains his innocence, but has agreed to cooperate with Jenky's request.

Peoria Diocese spokesperson Elizabeth Smarjesse would not say whether a criminal or civil complaint had been filed in the matter.

"Out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved in the cases, we will not be providing any further information," said Smarjesse.

In Earlville, however, word of Virtue's resignation and of the allegations appeared to have not yet resonated.

A call to St. Theresa Church was answered by a man who would not identify himself, but said he had been sent to answer phones at the church.

Likewise, a woman who answered the phone at the Sunshine Restaurant in Earlville, who identified herself only as Reba, said no one in her restaurant had been discussing the matter surrounding Virtue.

She said she had not personally met Virtue, but was sure she had "seen him around."

"I didn't know who he was, and this sounds too bad," she said. "But nobody's been talking about it yet today."


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