Archdiocese Knew of Pedophile Priests Who Served in Oak Park

By Timothy Inklebarger
January 24, 2014

[James Craig Hagan]

[Robert E. Mayer]

[John W. Curran]

New light was shed this week on 30 Chicago-area priests accused, and in some cases convicted, of the sexual abuse of minors. Three of them served at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Oak Park during the 1960s and '70s.

Documents released by victims' lawyers reveal that the Archdiocese of Chicago knew of sexual abuse perpetrated by Rev. James Craig Hagan, Robert E. Mayer and John W. Curran, who served at St. Catherine.

According to documents released by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, known abuse by Mayer and Hagan took place after they served as associate pastors at St. Catherine in 1964 and 1974, respectively. A timeline released by the law firm, however, shows four incidents of abuse by Curran between June 1966 and April 1970 at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South in Chicago and St. Albert the Great in Burbank, while he served as assistant pastor at St. Catherine.

Mayer was convicted of felony child sex abuse in 1992 and sentenced to three years in prison, but both Hagan and Curran escaped prosecution.

The documents show the Chicago Archdiocese allowed all three priests to continue their ministry despite the known threat they posed to minors.

Robert E. Mayer

A record of abuse perpetrated by Mayer began in 1974, 10 years after serving in Oak Park. Newly released documents show that the problems with Mayer were reported to the Clergy Personnel Board in 1977.

"Instead of removing Mayer and calling the police when the first allegations were known, the Archdiocese told Mayer to resign from his parish 'for other reasons' and was assigned elsewhere," according to a summary of events released by Anderson & Associates. "Mayer was finally removed from ministry in 1991, after a local television station received an anonymous tip, and six years after a civil sex abuse settlement involving one of Mayer's victims."

James Craig Hagan

In 1981, seven years after serving at St. Catherine, Hagan was accused of sexually abusing four minors while serving as an associate pastor at St. Richard in Chicago.

Allegations of abuse continued through the 1980s, and in 1991 he was assured by Rev. Patrick O'Malley, vicar of priests, that he would not be included in an Archdiocesan review of sexual abuse by priests.

"I want to set your mind at ease a bit," O'Malley told Hagan in a letter. "You undoubtedly know that the Cardinal recently appointed a commission to review all cases of alleged or real child abuse in our archdiocesan records. We presented to the commission every case that has come to our attention in the past 30 years."

O'Malley goes on to note that one of the cases involved Hagan from May of 1988.

"When presented with the facts, the commission agreed with our assessment and our handling of the incident," O'Malley wrote. "They also agreed that there was no need for action at this time. As far as they were concerned, the incident is closed."

He added, "Not to worry. We can put it away for good now."

Hagan resigned in 1997.

Cardinal Francis George launched an additional investigation of Hagan in April 2007, and under deposition later that year, Bishop Raymond Goedert said that despite credible allegations of sexual abuse in 1988, Hagan was allowed to stay in his ministry and promoted.

John W. Curran

By 1990, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was made aware of sexual abuse by Curran but promised not to disclose the information, according to a memo to Goedert dated Nov. 10, 1990. Jeff Anderson & Associates notes in its timeline of events that Curran was forced to resign his position in 1992, due to the sexual abuse allegations, and was placed on a "restricted ministry" but still given access to children.

The report notes that in 1995, Bernardin ordered Curran to undergo treatment at the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute. He was suspended by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki in 1996 for refusing to seek treatment but was reinstated later that year.

Curran retired from active ministry in 2000 and died later that year.








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