Former Altar Boy Accuses Springfield Diocese of Allowing Child Abuse

By Christopher Wills
Associated Press State & Local Wire [Springfield Ill]
October 28, 1999

A lawsuit claims Roman Catholic officials ignored a priest's sexual abuse of an altar boy 15 years ago, in part because of alleged sexual activity by the former bishop of the Springfield Diocese.

Matthew McCormick claimed Thursday he was abused by the former Rev. Alvin J. Campbell from 1982 through 1985, when McCormick was in his early teens. McCormick says diocesan officials had reason to know Campbell was a threat to children but did nothing. Moreover, McCormick alleges former Bishop Daniel L. Ryan had "multiple homosexual relationships" with male prostitutes and at least one priest, creating an atmosphere that tolerated child abuse.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said Ryan categorically denies any such relationships. The abuse McCormick alleges would have begun nearly two years before Ryan took his post in Springfield.

Spokeswoman Kathie Sass said Ryan removed the priest from his Morrisonville post when accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced in 1985. Campbell pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct charges, served seven years in prison and left the priesthood.

Sass said she could not comment on the details of McCormick's allegations. Ryan, who retired Oct. 19, was recovering from bronchial pneumonia and unavailable for comment, she said.

"If there is some kind of injury or hurt left over from the Father Campbell case, we will continue to keep those involved in our prayers," she added.

McCormick, now 30, suffers from depression, suicidal thoughts and other problems, attorney Frederic Nessler said. But he only recently realized his ills were linked to the sexual abuse, and that was the point when the clock started ticking on the two-year statute of limitations, Nessler said.

Nessler would say little about his client except that he now lives in Texas.

He did acknowledge discussing a cash settlement with the diocese. Nessler declined to discuss the amount and said the settlement talks have ended.

"I think our client is very much interested in justice. He certainly is willing to go forward with this suit to trial and to judgment by a jury if that is what is necessary," he said at a news conference.

Nessler would not say how much his client hopes to win in the lawsuit, which names the Springfield Diocese, Campbell, Ryan and the estate of former Bishop Joseph McNicholas.

Nessler has represented a group of former altar boys in a sexual abuse case against Monsignor Norman Goodman, a former pastor in Lincoln.

The Diocese of Peoria settled part of that case out of court for an undisclosed amount of money, but the portions of the suit filed personally against Goodman were either dismissed or withdrawn.

Ryan had led the Springfield Diocese and its 65,000 Catholic households from 1984 until his retirement just this month. He stepped down at age 69, six years earlier than usual for bishops.

His tenure was not without controversy. Thirteen years ago, he announced he was an alcoholic and spent three months attending a treatment program. Critics occasionally picketed his public events, accusing Ryan of sexual misconduct.

In announcing his retirement, Ryan denied it had anything to do with the allegations.


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