Bishop: Report Abuse to the Police

By Kara Spak
Chicago Daily Herald
May 9, 2002

Reacting to the national wave of sexual abuse allegations against Roman Catholic priests, the Rockford Diocese recently began emphasizing the importance of notifying civil authorities when dealing with abuse allegations.

Bishop Thomas Doran repeated this diocesan policy at a Tuesday press conference on the Rev. Harlan Clapsaddle, a priest accused of abuse who served in Elgin and McHenry County in the 1970s and 1980s.

Doran initially described the policy, which is a change from the way many Catholic dioceses operated for decades, in a weekly radio address.

When 25-year-old abuse allegations against Clapsaddle became public last week, the diocese transferred him from his most recent post at a Rockford nursing home to an undisclosed location, where he is staying with friends.

Clapsaddle spent most of the 1980s working in Elgin, first as an associate pastor at St. Thomas More between July 1978 and June 1981 and then as the director of religious education at St. Edward's High School until August 1987. Prior to his assignment at St. Thomas More, he served as an associate pastor at St. Mary parish in McHenry.

The Rev. Harlan, as he is known, is accused of inappropriately touching three brothers who lived in Rockford at the time of the reports of abuse. The family reported the abuse in December 1996 and Clapsaddle was removed as pastor of Dixon's St. Anne parish the next month.

Clapsaddle received treatment and then was assigned to Provena Health: Provena Cor Mariae Center, a Rockford nursing home where he administered sacraments, like communion and last rites, to seniors. The Rockford diocese settled with the abuse victims for $80,000.

In a letter to a Rockford newspaper, one of the victims said reporting the abuse to the diocese in 1996 victimized him again.

"The diocese did not deal with me and my family in a compassionate manner - their attitude was one of 'forgive and forget,' " he wrote, adding that despite the trauma, he encourages abuse victims to come forward.

"You are not alone," he said.

Doran said Clapsaddle was removed from his post as pastor of Dixon's St. Anne's parish in 1997 when the allegations from three brothers from Rockford were substantiated.

"Father Clapsaddle was removed promptly more than five years ago and has never again been given a pastoral post that would give him access to children," Doran said in a written statement.

Last week, Clapsaddle was removed from his job at the nursing home and is staying with friends under supervision, an employee of the diocese's communication office said.


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