Sex Abuse Suit Filed against Former Priest

By Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune
April 14, 2006

A 24-year-old construction worker from Chicago sued a former Roman Catholic priest Thursday, saying the priest molested him for two years until he was removed from ministry for sexual misconduct with minors.

Had the Archdiocese of Chicago removed James Craig Hagan, 58, of Berwyn as soon as the first allegation of abuse was reported in 1988, children would have been safer, said Jeff Anderson, the attorney for the plaintiff, whose name was not disclosed. plaintiff's attorney. The archdiocese is named in the lawsuit.

Hagan could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese, said the 1988 accusation was reported to the Cook County state's attorney's office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The child welfare agency determined the allegation to be unfounded, and prosecutors did not pursue it, Dolan said.

That same year, Hagan was transferred from St. Gertrude Parish to St. Denis Parish, both in Chicago.

It was at St. Denis in 1994 that Hagan encountered the plaintiff, then a 13-year-old altar boy, and allegedly began abusing him until April 1996, when church officials determined there was reason to suspect Hagan of sexual misconduct, the suit said. Hagan was immediately removed from ministry and resigned from the priesthood in April 1997, Dolan said.

Ordained in 1974, Hagan had been assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Oak Park and St. Richard Parish in Chicago.

Anderson said in an interview that the archdiocese did not deal honestly with him when he negotiated two earlier sex abuse settlements against Hagan, in 2003 and 2005. Anderson said the archdiocese did not disclose the 1988 allegation or an additional 1996 settlement.

"He was abusing this guy while they were negotiating that settlement," he said. "They are keeping this secret and seriously imperiling [children]."

Dolan said the church does not discuss the details of previous settlements or allegations.

In October 2003, the archdiocese paid more than $8 million to 15 adults who said that, as minors, they were molested by 11 priests. Two plaintiffs in that suit accused Hagan and settled for more than $800,000, Anderson said. As part of that settlement, the archdiocese agreed to post the names, past assignments and present status of priests removed from ministry because of credible abuse allegations. Details on 55 priests were posted on the archdiocese's Web site last month.

Last October, the archdiocese reached another settlement with 24 adults who accused 14 priests of molesting them when they were children. One plaintiff accused Hagan in that settlement too. He settled for nearly $500,000, Anderson said.


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