Priest Accused of Molesting 19 Lincoln Boys

By Pete Falcone
The Pantagraph [Bloomington, IL]
December 12, 1997

A retired Lincoln priest has been accused of molesting as many as 19 former altar boys, and the allegations may become the basis of a class-action lawsuit.

The Catholic Diocese, however, expressed confidence the priest would be cleared of the accusations.

While no criminal charges have been filed against the Rev. Norman Goodman, Lincoln attorney Frederic Nessler said he and other attorneys involved "hope to send a message because the diocese, from our information, knew about this as early as 1984 and did nothing to stop it. " Nessler is among a team of attorneys that has accused Goodman, the former pastor of Holy Family Church in Lincoln, of the molestations. The attorneys placed an advertisement in the Lincoln newspaper this week that asks people to come forward "if you have any information concerning sexual misconduct involving minors, altar boys or former altar boys. " It included a toll-free number. Nineteen potential victims have contacted the attorneys, Nessler said. He has confirmed nine of the cases to his satisfaction, and interviews with other potential victims remain.

"I would never go forward with a case unless I was comfortable with it.

If only one person had come forward, you'd have to look at the credibility," Nessler said, adding he has not set a timetable for filing a lawsuit.

"Some of the altar boys witnessed the activity as it was performed on other altar boys. The issue here is not that anyone is out to get anybody, it is sexual misconduct by a person in a position of spiritual authority, of actual authority over these children," Nessler said.

"I frankly think the number is going to get larger. It wouldn't surprise me if it grows to 30 to 50. " But a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese in Peoria expressed support for Goodman, adding that the accusations were a shock to the diocese.

"The allegations have been made, Monsignor Goodman is denying them and it is now up to the proper authorities to work this out," said Kate Kenny, director of communications for the diocese.

"Monsignor Goodman's record is perfectly clear of any offenses to date," she continued. "I think the diocese is pretty confident it isn't true. " She expects the diocese's attorney to begin reviewing the matter Monday.

But so far another attorney, Logan County State's Attorney William Workman, knows little about the allegations.

"As far as I know, there has been no report made to any investigative agency," Workman said, adding he has contacted Lincoln, Logan County and state police. He has, however, asked detectives to investigate the accusations.

Fueling the fire was Goodman's abrupt departure from the parish Oct. 19 with only a farewell message in the church bulletin. "Thirty-five years is a long time to stay in one parish and you are deserving of having a new pastor," Goodman wrote.

Kenny said Goodman lives in the area, but she did not know where.

She added the retired priest "had some health problems and that contributed to his retirement. He had been there nearly 35 years but wasn't one for big goodbyes. " Goodman was ordained in 1960. A Pekin native, his first parish was in Moline and he moved to the Lincoln area in 1962. He has served as pastor or co-pastor in Lincoln's St. Patrick's and Holy Family parishes as well as in churches Atlanta and Mason City.

The potential lawsuit was arranged by a Petersburg resident, Stephen Brady.

The founder and president of Roman Catholic Faithful, a conservative organization of Catholic church members, Brady was contacted by a friend of one of the alleged victims. He in turn brought in the team led by state of Washington attorney James Bendell.

Bendell, a board member of Roman Catholic Faithful, a group claiming to "fight actively and spirtually to restore Holy Mother Church," reportedly filed a similar suit against three Seattle priests in 1994. That case was later settled for an undisclosed amount.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.