Rockford Diocese Discloses Sexual Misconduct by Priest Removed Five Years Ago: Bishop Urges Victims to Report Cases

By Kelly Quinn
Herald News
May 8, 2002

ROCKFORD — Officials of the Rockford Diocese on Tuesday acknowledged charges of sexual misconduct by one of its priests — the first public disclosure made by Rockford in the scandal which has rocked other dioceses across the country.

Rev. Harlan Clapsaddle was relieved of his duties at St. Anne Parish in Dixon in 1997 after three brothers from Rockford accused the priest of improper touching during the 1970s, said Bishop Thomas G. Doran.

When the allegations were reported to the diocese in December 1996, an intervention committee investigated the charges, found them credible, and removed the priest from his assignment in Dixon, Doran said.

"We take charges of sexual abuse of minors by anyone affiliated with the diocese very seriously, and I want to take this occasion to express my personal sorrow and apologies to the family involved," Doran said.

Prior to Tuesday, Doran had refused to publicly discuss any allegations that have been made, citing them as personnel matters. But according to Doran, Kevin Misslich and his mother, Arlene Misslich, recently contacted local media to report the incident.

The statute of limitations for both civil and criminal proceedings had expired when the Misslich brothers reported five years ago that Clapsaddle inappropriately touched them while clothed. Still, the diocese's investigative committee intervened.

"There is no statute of limitations on our (zero tolerance) police of sexual misconduct, and that is no accident," Doran said Tuesday.

After Clapsaddle was removed from his post, he underwent evaluation and treatment for several months. When he returned, his role as a priest was restricted to assure that children would be protected. He was not given a new pastoral assignment, Doran said.

Clapsaddle remains in the Rockford area, where he last worked with the elderly in a supervised setting at the Provena Cor Mariae nursing home, Doran said.

Doran, who publicly apologized to the victims, reiterated that he takes allegations of abuse seriously.

"Sexual abuse of minors is a problem — in society and in the church. Protecting the welfare of children must be our first priority, and that is why the Rockford Diocese has a tough policy," Doran said.

He urged anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by anyone affiliated with the Rockford Diocese to call the diocese misconduct office at (815) 962-9347.


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