Ex-CCHS Chaplain Accused of Abuse

By Scott Richardson
Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
June 8, 2002

BLOOMINGTON - A former chaplain at Bloomington's Central Catholic High School is the eighth priest in the Peoria Diocese asked to step down from active ministry because of sexual abuse allegations.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky took the action Friday after the diocese recently received allegations that the Rev. Michael R. Van Acker engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor in the early 1980s.

Van Acker, 50, arrived at Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington after he was ordained in 1981. He served as chaplain at CCHS from 1982 to 1986. While at the school, Van Acker resided at St. Patrick Parish in Wapella.

Diocese spokeswoman Kate Kenny said the diocese would not divulge where the alleged abuse took place to protect the confidentiality of the accuser.

After leaving Bloomington, Van Acker moved to Peoria and served as a chaplain at Bergan High School. He was chaplain at OSF St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg when he was asked to leave the priesthood.

The Rev. John Dietzen, who was pastor at Holy Trinity from 1983 until his retirement in 1998, said he was shocked over the news.

Dietzen remembered Van Acker as "a good worker, a very warm, personal priest."

Asked if he heard any questions regarding Van Acker's behavior while both were assigned in Bloomington, Dietzen said, "Of course not. ... I never would have guessed this."

Dietzen said the first he heard of any allegations against Van Acker came by way of rumors circulating the past two weeks in the Catholic community in Peoria, where Dietzen resides.

Van Acker could not be reached for comment Friday. Curt Lipe, St. Mary's chief financial officer, told the Associated Press that Van Acker informed hospital officials two weeks ago that he was taking a leave of absence. His last day was May 24.

As Jenky did a week ago with seven other diocesan priests accused of sexual abuse, the bishop asked Van Acker to refrain from functioning as a Catholic priest in any public capacity.

Van Acker may no longer wear clerical garb or the Roman collar, or be addressed as "Father" or "Reverend," Jenky said.

Among the priests removed earlier in the scandal was Monsignor Norman Goodman, 73, former pastor at Holy Family Parish in Lincoln.

In lawsuits, 15 former altar boys accused Goodman of abuse from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Goodman retired when the allegations were made public in 1997. Thirteen of his accusers settled with the diocese for more than $2 million. The amount the two others received was not disclosed. A 16th person's claim is in mediation.

The six other priests are accused of abuse dating back 20 to 40 years, the diocese has said. Allegations against them surfaced after Jenky made it clear when he took over the diocese two months ago that he would not tolerate sexual abuse within the church.


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