Archdiocese asks retired priest to ‘step aside from ministry’ amid sexual abuse investigation

By Morgan Greene
Chicago Tribune
August 9, 2019

A retired priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who served at multiple parishes in the city has been asked by the archbishop of Chicago to “step aside from ministry” amid an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, the Archdiocese of Chicago said Thursday.

The Rev. George Clements is being investigated for an alleged incident that occurred in 1974 while he was pastor of Holy Angels Parish, the archdiocese said in a news release. Clements retired from active ministry in 2006. He served at the Bronzeville church as pastor from June 20, 1969, to June 30, 1991, according to the archdiocese.

Clements was a charismatic and controversial leader who brought hope to the church where about 500 families worshipped, the Tribune reported in 2002 amid allegations of abuse involving another pastor who served after Clements departed.

At Holy Angels, Clements established a school that grew to more than 1,000 students, and after a 1986 fire destroyed the church, Clements led a campaign to bring the church back to life.

“Clements has been an energetic, much-traveled activist, often embroiled in controversy throughout those 22 years,” the Tribune reported in 1991 after Clements’ exit from the church was announced.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, has asked Clements “to step aside from ministry pending the outcome of an investigation,” according to the Thursday release. The allegation was referred to the archdiocesan Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review by the Chicago Police Department, the news release said, and the allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney.

Clements also served at a number of other Chicago parishes, including St. Ambrose Parish from July 6, 1957, to July 6, 1962, and St. Dorothy Parish from July 7, 1962, to June 19, 1969. In 1993, he was the resident priest at St. Sabina Parish.

Outside Chicago, Clements served the Diocese of Nassau, Bahamas, in the West Indies from Sept. 1, 1991, to Oct. 17, 1993, and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., from Oct. 18, 1993, to March 31, 2006.

Larry Antonsen, a Chicago staff leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he’s glad Cupich did what he’s supposed to do and removed Clements from ministry, but he said he still thinks there’s a long way to go.

“It’s not unusual for people not to come forward for many, many years,” Antonsen said. “There are a whole lot of things we don’t know. But I’m glad this came out, and I’m glad it’s being investigated.”

In December, the archdiocese announced it had commissioned an independent review of its policies after Lisa Madigan, then the Illinois attorney general, released a preliminary report that found the number of Catholic priests who had been accused of sexual abuse against children was much higher than the number of members with credible allegations who had been publicly identified.




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