DCFS Ruling on Father Smyth Case ‘unfounded’; Matter ‘closed’
By Todd Wessell
Journal & Topics
June 17, 2019
An investigation into charges by two men that former Maryville Academy executive director and Notre Dame High School Principal Fr. John Smyth sexually abused them while they were 12 and 13-years-old, have been determined to be “unfounded,” according to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS). “The case is now closed,” said a DCFS spokesperson when contacted by the Journal & Topics Media Group on Monday.
Another DCFS spokesman, however, explained that the “unfounded” determination does not mean that the allegations of abuse made against Smyth are untrue. He said that it’s law enforcement’s responsibility to make that determination adding that DCFS’s probe did not include investigating whether current adults were abused when they were children. Instead, it focused on a number of criteria such as whether Smyth posed a danger to children. The fact that Smyth died in late April makes it clear that he does not present such a danger.
Supporters and friends of Smyth this week expressed relief at the state agency’s findings.
“His legacy should now be back to what it was before,” said Smyth’s attorney Frank DiFranco yesterday (Tuesday). “He dedicated his whole life to helping others.” Smyth, a well-known figure throughout the Chicago region, most notably in Des Plaines and Niles, died in April at age 84.
The Chicago Catholic Archdiocese announced in mid-January that Cardinal Blase Cupich had asked Fr. Smyth to step aside from his ministry after the church had received allegations that the Catholic priest had sexually molested two teens around 2002 and 2003. The alleged abuse was done at a Maryville facility in Des Plaines.
An investigation launched by the Archdiocese at that time was halted when the DCFS began its own probe in late January.
Smyth, Maryville’s assistant executive director and then its executive director, was associated with the institution that housed and cared for youths since 1962. He was also founder of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine located on the Maryville grounds, and the Standing Tall Foundation that also helps youths.
When the charges of sexual abuse surfaced, hundreds of Smyth’s friends, including many alumni of Maryville, rushed to his aid saying the accusations are wrong and outrageous.
The spokesperson for the DCFS said the agency’s policy is not to comment further on the investigation.
“It was all a scam,” said DiFranco. “They concocted it to pressure the Archdiocese to pay them money. Smyth adamantly denied everything. We showed it could not have happened.” For instance, he explained, one of the accusers said Fr. Smyth in 2002 offered him an educational scholarship through his Standing Tall Foundation, which was founded by the priest to help needy individuals. However, said DiFranco, Standing Tall was not founded until 2005.
DiFranco said he is still investigating what led to the accusations and investigations. He explained that it’s believed that a former Maryville resident met up with the two accusers at Hill Correctional Center, a medium security prison in Galesburg, where they were serving lengthy sentences. Between the three of them, they made up the story in an effort to have the Archdiocese give them money in a settlement, said DiFranco.
DiFranco said he’s now “sure the Archdiocese will conclude its investigation.”to extort money.”
As of yesterday morning, the Archdiocese had not issued a statement on the matter.
DiFranco also said that the Standing Tall Foundation, that Fr. Smyth founded about 15 years ago, will continue to do its work in enhancing educational opportunities for needy college-age students. He is a member of its board.