Priest, 77, Pleads Guilty to Abusing 2 Brothers in '90s
Man Gets 60-Day Sentence, Probation

By Hal Dardick
Chicago Tribune [Joliet IL]
April 26, 2007,1,3266523.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

A 77-year-old Carmelite priest from Joliet pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually molesting two brothers in the 1990s when they were young teenagers under his spiritual guidance.

In a deal with Will County prosecutors, Rev. Louis Rogge is expected to spend 30 days in jail and serve 4 years of probation. The priest, who has a prior child-abuse conviction and was removed from the ministry in 2002, must register as a sex offender.

After accepting Rogge's guilty plea to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt ordered a sex-offender evaluation of Rogge and set sentencing for July 26.

Schoenstedt said he would accept the deal—if Rogge cooperated with the evaluation, stayed out of trouble and showed up on time for sentencing. The agreement called for a 60-day jail term, with day-for-day credit for good time, and a suspended sentence of 120 days Rogge would have to serve if he got into trouble while on probation.

Schoenstedt noted that Rogge was on a host of medications. He has had a heart attack and needs ongoing cardiac care, said Assistant State's Atty. Neil Adams, chief felony prosecutor.

"It's an appropriate disposition in the case," said Charles Pelkie, spokesman for State's Atty. James Glasgow. "He's in his 70s, and we consulted with the family members on this."

The victims would have preferred to see Rogge go to prison, but they understood the passage of time, Rogge's age and his health played a role in the disposition, Pelkie said. "I won't say they are happy he is not going to prison, but they understand why we made that decision in that case," he said.

About 3 percent of priests accused of sexual abuse have been convicted, and about 2 percent were sent to prison, according to a 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"It's exceedingly rare," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Prosecutions are thwarted when abusive priests die, flee or go missing, Clohessy said. And they often escape prosecution because the statute of limitations has expired, he added.

When Rogge was indicted in December, Glasgow explained charges could be brought in the case because the Illinois General Assembly had extended the statute of limitations to 20 years after the 18th birthday of a victim.

"Kids are safer when molesters are jailed, whether they are young or old, healthy or infirm," Clohessy said. "Child sexual abuse is a crime of cunning and deception, not one of force.

"Age is actually an advantage for molestation," he added, saying abusers become more "skilled" as they age and that children and parents tend to be more trusting of older people.

Still, he praised Will County authorities. "Given the fact that so many in law enforcement even now still show excessive and reckless deference to church officials, I'm grateful he is at least spending some time behind bars," he said. "Any guilty verdict or plea and jail sentence at least provides some measure of validation and comfort and public safety."

Adams told the judge that the father of the two boys contacted Carmelite authorities Sept. 8, 2005. Rogge, who was a friend of the victims' family, abused the elder boy in 1996 when he was 14, and the younger one in 1999 when he was 15, the father alleged.

The abuse occurred in the boys' bedrooms, prosecutor Adams said. Carmelite authorities called Rogge in for an interview and he admitted the crimes and expressed remorse, Adams said.

Rogge of the 3500 block of Lake Shore Drive in Joliet pleaded guilty to child molestation in Athens, Ga., in 1974, said Rev. John Welch, provincial for the Darien-based Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. He was sentenced to 6 years of probation but was allowed to serve only 2, after undergoing counseling and having his ministry restricted to adults.

In 2002, he was removed from his post traveling the country to provide his services at retreats and parishes after the Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which required any priest who faced a credible sex-abuse allegation to be removed from public ministry. Rogge also was placed in a "supervised setting," Welch said.

"We're very sorry," Welch said after Rogge entered his plea. "We hope the ongoing process will bring some measure of closure and healing to those involved."



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