Abuse Allegations against Former St. Francis Xavier Priest Dated Back to 1954
By Kevin Bargnes
November 6, 2014
A Catholic priest who served Wilmette’s St. Francis Xavier church from 1974 to 1984 became embroiled in multiple sex abuse allegations after he retired from the church in 1992, according to documents released Thursday by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The documents detail four abuse allegations made against Father David Braun while he was a Chicago pastor and at least one while he served in Wilmette.
Braun was first ordained in 1954, serving parishes in Chicago and Oak Lawn. In 1963, while at St. Linus in Oak Lawn, documents allege that Braun picked up a 14-year-old hitchhiker and “attempted immorality” with the young boy.
Police and the boy’s father agreed not to press charges if the church would handle the matter.
In the documents, Braun admits to the church he had taken part in sexual acts with young boys as early as 1956, and that “he could not begin to count the occasions of his sins.” Braun blamed his problems with alcohol for many of the incidents, which typically involved him picking up boys after school.
“[Braun] claims that he can tell by the way they dress and walk, that they are willing subjects,” a document dated November of 1963 reads. “After a brief conversation in the car the arrangements are made. The sinning occurs in the Forest Preserves, or in Fr. B’s car in the wintertime. He is the agressor [sic] and it is sodomy.”
After this admission, Braun was placed on immediate leave. Four months later, a sober Braun returned as an assistant pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Braun bounced around several Chicago parishes, and eventually became interested in helping other priests treat their alcoholism. He spent most of 1972 receiving the necessary training to do so at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
Two years later, he was transferred to Wilmette’s St. Xavier, working as both a pastor there and at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in alcohol treatment.
He abruptly resigned from that rehab center in 1983, telling the church he had briefly started drinking again. After stints as a pastor in Round Lake, Palatine and North Riverside, a 65-year-old Braun retired in 1992, splitting time between Sublette, Illinois, and Brooksville, Florida.
Specific allegations against Braun were first documented in 1992, when a man contacted the archdiocese saying that Braun molested him at Chicago’s Sacred Heart in 1960, when he was 13 years old.
Later, in 1994, a Peoria woman told the church she was abused by Braun in the mid-1960s when she was 4 years old, and that the incidents consisted of “mutual fondling and oral sex.”
Her brother later told the church that around the time of this abuse, Braun had tried to get into his sleeping bag.
After these allegations, then-Cardinal Joseph Bernardin ordered that Braun not be allowed in the presence of anyone under the age of 18 without another responsible adult present. Though he denied the allegations, Braun, in ailing health, agreed to the limitations.
A third allegation came in 1995, when a man told the church he was fondled by Braun five to six times in the mid-1960s, while the victim was around 10 years old and while Braun was a pastor at St. Teresa, the Lincoln Park parish.
Braun died in 1997 at age 70, and three years later, the archdiocese’s abuse investigation board closed his file pending new cases.
But two new allegations followed. One man told the church in 2002 that he was abused by Braun in Wilmette in 1982 or 1983, while the victim was 22 years old. This coincided with the time Braun told the church that he “became unhappy and started drinking again.”
The Wilmette victim says he went to Braun for the sacrament of confession multiple times over a six-month period. After several of those sessions, Braun abused the victim, kissing him and inappropriate touching.
In 2008, another man wrote to the church saying Braun had molested him at Sacred Heart in 1954, when he was just 12 years old. Unlike the others, this victim never formalized the complaint, leaving the case inactive.
Braun was just one of 36 Chicago-area priests named in a 15,000-page document dump from the archdiocese Thursday. In a statement on the church’s website, Cardinal Francis George said his office released the documents in hopes it would help with the healing process.
“We cannot change the past but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue,” George said. “Child abuse is a crime and a sin.”
The archdiocese expects the release of these documents will lead to more abuse accusations. After a similar release in January, about 60 more people came forward to tell their story, according to Jen Slattery, director of the archdiocese’s office for the protection of children and youth.