Plaintiff in Illinois sex abuse lawsuit says now-Archbishop of Omaha failed to act in 2006

By Christopher Burbach
Scottsbluff Star Herald
October 23, 2018

One of the plaintiffs in a new sex abuse lawsuit against every Roman Catholic diocese in Illinois said now-Omaha Archbishop George Lucas and his then-diocese failed to act on her complaint when he was bishop of Springfield, Illinois.

One of the plaintiffs in a new sexual abuse lawsuit against every Roman Catholic diocese in Illinois said now-Omaha Archbishop George Lucas and his then-diocese failed to act on her complaint when he was bishop of Springfield, Illinois.

The Springfield Diocese denied it, saying the complaint “was thoroughly investigated and reported to authorities.” Lucas left Springfield for Omaha in 2009.

In a statement Friday, Lucas said it was inappropriate for him to comment on “individual meetings with victims.” But the archbishop said he has supported, in both the Springfield Diocese and Omaha Archdiocese, the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

“This includes outreach to victims of abuse, acknowledging their hurt and offering support for their healing, as well as forwarding reports of abuse to law enforcement agencies. Independent audits have consistently shown compliance in these and all areas of the charter in both dioceses,” Lucas said.

Cynthia Yesko, who is now a therapist in the Chicago area, is one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing Illinois dioceses of an ongoing scheme to cover up sexual assault. Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented clergy abuse victims across the country, filed the lawsuit Wednesday evening in Chicago on behalf of Yesko and three men.

“Defendants have, for decades, and continue to adopt policies and practices of covering up criminal activity ... (that) have endangered numerous children in the past, and these practices will continue to put children at risk in the future,” reads the lawsuit against all six dioceses in Illinois, as well as the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

Yesko said during a press conference Thursday that two Springfield, Illinois, priests had abused her when she was a child in the 1970s. Both priests are now deceased. The lawsuit said that from 1972 to 1975, the Rev. Stanislaus Yunker, the longtime pastor of the defunct St. Vincent de Paul Church in Springfield, “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with Yesko, according to the State Journal-Register of Springfield. She was about 4 to 7 years old at the time. Yunker died in 1975.

The lawsuit also said Yesko was abused by the Rev. Louis Schlangen between 1973 and 1975 while she and her family attended the now-demolished Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Springfield, the State Journal-Register reported.

Yesko said during Thursday’s press conference that she met with Lucas in 2007. She said she had been told that he would apologize. Instead, he sat silently in a manner that she viewed as an attempt to intimidate her. She said the diocese did not take any action against Schlangen.

The Springfield Diocese said in a  statement that the diocese “shared the details of the complaint with then-Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt. More broadly, beyond the specific case referred to in this lawsuit, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has already been working cooperatively with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to respond to requests for information relating to past and present practices of handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors by church personnel.”

While the lawsuit seeks damages and only claims instances of abuse against children in three dioceses — Rockford, Peoria and Springfield — all of them have been and continue to cover up clergy sexual abuse, Anderson said.

He added that a key goal of the suit is to force each diocese to make public the names of all priests, living and dead, accused of child molestation.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement that while officials had not reviewed the lawsuit, the diocese has in recent years taken significant steps to address the issue, including posting the names of priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse on its website.

The Chicago diocese has implemented a “stringent monitoring program of clergy with substantiated cases of sexual abuse against them,” the statement said.

The Diocese of Joliet disputed any suggestion that it’s withholding information. In a statement, the diocese said that since 2006 it has kept on its website a list of “living and deceased diocesan priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.”

In Peoria, the diocese in a statement defended its handling of allegations against two priests named in the lawsuit. In one case, the diocese said that upon learning of the allegations it immediately placed the priest on leave and reported the allegation to police. Only after the police concluded an investigation, and the diocesan review commission found the allegation unsubstantiated, was the priest reinstated in ministry.

The other priest, according to the Peoria diocese, was removed from all public ministry in 2002.




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