Once Home to Molester Priest, Church Hit by Arson, Vandalism

February 6, 2009

CHICAGO &madsh; A former Catholic priest who molested at least three children worked at a Bridgeport church where a fire was set and "Rape" and "Happen'd here" were scrawled in red duct tape Friday morning.

The arson fire in an alley next to the north wall destroyed a stained glass window in the 96-year-old South Side church, where "God is a Lie" was also written in tape on the front doors.

Firefighters were called to the scene about 3 a.m. by a 911 call from an anonymous passer-by who saw the flames, said Rev. John Parker, pastor of All Saints at 518 W. 28th Place.

A second fire was set next to a street light directly across from the church.

Former priest Robert Craig served as an assistant pastor at All Saints in the 1980s, Parker said.

Craig is listed on the Archdiocese of Chicago's Web site as a priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Jeff Anderson, the attorney representing three minors who successfully sued the Archdiocese over Craig's abuse, said he wasn't sure if any abuse happened at All Saints.

In one of the suits, client "Juan Doe" claimed Craig abused him more than 100 times between 1987 and 1990. Doe and Craig met at St. Ann's Parish on the Southwest Side and the abuse happened at St. Mark's in Humboldt Park, Anderson said.

"I cannot tell you that abuse arose out of that church [All Saints], and I know nothing about that fire," Anderson said. "I can tell you unequivocally Robert Craig is an offender known to the public as having abused three youth."

The Archdiocesan Web site said Craig was ordained in May 1974 and resigned in October 1993.

Parker said he believed the abuse happened after Craig left All Saints.

"My understanding is that he was not in trouble here," Parker said, adding he's never met Craig. "It was after he left here that allegations arose."

The church was built in 1913 to serve the German immigrants living in the area. Cleanup was underway Friday so the church could be used for the Saturday funeral of former Chicago Police Deputy Supt. John Jay Risley.

Chicago firefighters extinguished the blaze by 3:15 a.m., but the stained glass window depicting a nativity scene was shattered and burned.

The Chicago Police Bomb & Arson Section, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Fire Department are investigating.

"I'm shocked and hurt," said Sara Kane, 36, who has lived across the street from the church her entire life. She attended the church's grade school and was married in the parish.


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