Archdiocese Ousts Accused Priest

Chicago Breaking News
October 27, 2009

The 15-year saga of a South Side priest expelled from public ministry, reinstated, then removed again ended this week with his permanent ouster from the priesthood.

John Calicott, the former pastor of Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, received word earlier this month that he is no longer a member of the clergy, the Archdiocese of Chicago said today, citing a decree from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Vatican decree caps an arduous and circuitous journey since allegations first surfaced in 1994 that he abused two teenagers during his first assignment at St. Ailbe Catholic Church on the city's South Side.

"We feel it's a vindication that they finally acknowledged what we are saying is the truth," said Fred Arceneaux, now 46, one of the boys allegedly abused by Calicott. "This is always going to be a part of my life. This has had a direct impact on where I am now, how I relate to my church and my family."

Calicott, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, was initially placed on leave in April 1994 when Arceneaux and David Lasley came forward with sexual abuse allegations dating back to 1976. At the time of the allegations, Calicott admitted to "misconduct," but called it isolated and insisted and he was not a threat to children.

A year later, after parishioners pleaded for Calicott's return, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin made an exception to his policy barring priests removed for sexual misconduct with minors from returning to parish ministry. He cited two psychological evaluations that said Calicott posed "no significant risk to children" if he continued therapy.

But in 2002, America's bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy that ordered the removal of all priests from ministry for a single credible allegation of sexual abuse. Cardinal Francis George removed Calicott again.

Two years later, Holy Angels invited Calicott to the parish school to lecture students on issues including sexuality. He also lived part-time at the rectory despite orders from George to live with other suspended priests at Mundelein Seminary. George rebuked him and petitioned the Vatican for a speedy canonical trial to determine Calicott's status as a priest.

During his deposition, Calicott denied the allegations. But after a review by a three-judge panel and a second review at Calicott's request, he was removed.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, expressed relief that church officials finally had "defrocked this dangerous predator."

"Cardinal George's responsibility doesn't end here," she said. "Catholic officials can't recruit, educate, ordain, hire, transfer and shield predator priests, then when the heat gets too intense, deny any responsibility for them."

Lasley, also now 46, appreciates the validation but worries that the former priest no longer answers to a higher authority. Calicott is expected to move out of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House , where accused priests are housed in Mundelein, by the end of this week.

"If they believe us, what are you doing just putting him out there?" Lasley said. "Who is going to monitor him now?"


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