Other Cases Involving Diocese

By Sarah Antonacci
State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
October 31, 1999

While the lawsuit filed last week is the most recent legal action pursued against the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, there have been others.

According to Sangamon County Circuit Court records and State Journal-Register archives, at least four other cases have alleged sexual misconduct by Diocese of Springfield priests. There are 28 counties in the diocese, and records could not be checked for all of them.

Kathie Sass, spokeswoman for the diocese, said she does not have a count of the lawsuits.

"Offhand I do not know how many lawsuits have been filed," she said. "The bishop gets sued for everything, honestly. If someone falls down on the sidewalk and gets hurt, the bishop is named in the suit."

The attorneys who represent the diocese could not be reached late last week.

In addition to the current lawsuit based on allegations against the former Rev. Alvin Campbell, the cases include:

The Havey case

A lawsuit filed in 1995 by three couples alleges that the then-Rev. Joseph Havey plied their adolescent boys with marijuana, alcohol and pornography while forcing them to perform ritual acts of abuse on him when he was serving as a priest at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Springfield.

The suit is still being litigated.

The families allege the abuse occurred when their children were 11 to 14 years old and while Havey was a priest at the church and grade school from April 1978 to June 1981.

One family accuses Havey of having had sex with their then-preteenage son.

Havey is no longer a priest and does not live in Springfield.

Initially, seven men, now in their early 30s, filed separate suits against Havey, the diocese and the Rev. Patrick Wright of St. Agnes Parish School.

The men claimed, as McCormick does, that they always knew they'd been abused but failed to link their many problems in life to that abuse.

At least one of the alleged victims sought counseling and discovered in 1993 the possible cause-and-effect relationship. He then began discussing it with the others, according to the limited court files available.

A judge ruled that five of the men filed their lawsuits too late, and that they should have suspected their problems were caused by the abuse long before they discussed it with the others.

The two remaining cases were combined with the suit filed by the parents, Now, all are plaintiffs in one lawsuit.

In the original complaints, the alleged victims' names were all pseudonyms.

The parents, who claim they have suffered "extreme emotional pain and distress" because of the abuse, used their real names.

The State Journal-Register does not identify the victims of alleged sexual abuse or assault unless the victim comes forward on his or her own.

Coincidentally, Nessler took over last spring as the plaintiffs' representative in the Havey case.

The families say that as a result of the abuse, their sons have had drug and alcohol problems, nightmares, run-ins with the law and difficulty relating to women.

"We are still in the early stages of discovery in that suit," Nessler said last week, admitting that because of the change in attorneys, the case is further behind than it should be given that it was filed four years ago.

The Sullivan case Susan Hertel sued the Springfield diocese in June 1992, claiming the Rev. Kevin Sullivan impregnated her while he was pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Decatur in the early to middle 1980s.

She said he arranged for and then encouraged her to get an abortion.

A year later, Judge Stuart Shiffman dismissed the suit, citing the statute of limitations. At the time, Hertel's attorneys indicated they planned to appeal, but evidence of an appeal could not be found.

Sullivan admitted the sexual relationship but said it ended in August 1985, although he continued to act as Hertel's priest for some time after that.

Hertel contended the sexual relationship continued until May 1988.

The Poterucha case In 1990, a Taylorville woman sued the Springfield diocese, Ryan, the Rev. Mike Poterucha and two other churches, alleging she had an affair with Poterucha while he was a priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Taylorville.

She said she had a child by Poterucha in 1988, which was born with Angelman's Syndrome, a malady that causes developmental delays. The woman, who was married at the time and the mother of several other children, wanted help in paying for the child's care.

According to documents filed in Sangamon County court, the woman was awarded $ 3,000 a year in child support.

The Weerts case In March 1986, the Rev. Walter Weerts, pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Liberty and St. Thomas Catholic Church in Camp Point, pleaded guilty in Adams County Circuit Court to three counts of sexual abuse. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

In October, 1987, a Belleville attorney revealed the Springfield diocese reached a cash settlement with families of three teenage boys who claimed they had been molested by Weerts in 1985. Two of the families lived near Quincy and one lived south of Springfield. According to the attorney, the settlement prevented the families from filing suit or discussing details of the incidents. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.


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