Jesuit Writer Accused of Abusing Local Boy Is Barred from Ministry

By David Yonke
Toledo Blade (Ohio)
March 10, 2004

John Gallen is a Jesuit priest and an internationally known scholar and author who has traveled the world leading seminars on Catholic liturgy and worship.

The jet-setting, charismatic cleric also is accused of having a sinister side - as a child molester.

Father Gallen has been barred from ministry following allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old Sylvania boy in 1980 at St. Joseph Church on South Main Street.

The victim, now 40 and living in Kenosha, Wis., received a $50,000 settlement from the Jesuits in 1994, but he continued to pursue his case with the Catholic church until last month. That is when he learned that Father Gallen, though technically still a priest, has been barred from performing any priestly functions, according to a letter from the Milwaukee archdiocese obtained by The Blade.

"It's all about protecting children. I want to make sure that Mr. Gallen is not a threat to children any more," said Kevin, who asked that his last name not be published.

Father Gallen, who lives in New York City, did not return repeated phone calls or e-mails from The Blade seeking comment.

When Kevin was growing up in Sylvania, he said he served as an altar boy at St. Joseph's parish and worked part-time at the church cutting the grass, mopping floors, and doing odd jobs around the buildings and grounds.

"I spent more time there than I did at my own home," he said.

Father Gallen, now 71, entered the Jesuit religious order in 1950 and was ordained 13 years later.

An award-winning expert on the liturgy - the public worship of the church - Father Gallen served as editor of Hosanna Magazine, wrote numerous books and articles on liturgy and worship, and in the 1970s was director of the pastoral liturgy center at the University of Notre Dame. He has continued to write about liturgy, publishing articles as recently as June, 2003, in the national Catholic magazine The Tidings.

Father Gallen arrived in Sylvania in March, 1980, to lead a week-long parish retreat at St. Joseph's - where then-Auxiliary Bishop James R. Hoffman was pastor - and stayed at the church rectory.

"He was a very charismatic, very friendly man, and would call me into his room to talk to me and stuff," Kevin told The Blade. "That's when the ..."

Kevin's voice faded, finding the allegations difficult to discuss even after 24 years. Married for 12 years and the father of one daughter, Kevin has been undergoing counseling both individually and with his spouse, for more than a decade.

"First it started out with a hug, and then, you know, he'd be rubbing his leg up against [me]. Then he was kissing me," Kevin said.

"And it was all very, very, very confusing to me. I was completely taken up by his speech, by his talking, the respect that he had from the other priests and the bishop, and what do I do with that? In my mind, I was very, very confused."

Shortly after Father Gallen returned to his home in Phoenix, Ariz., he called Kevin's parents in Sylvania and asked if their son could help him move to California.

"He didn't even talk to me, he got permission from my parents to help him move from Phoenix to Sacramento," Kevin said.

He said he was afraid to go but also was afraid to tell his parents why.

In a hotel in Palm Springs, Calif., Kevin said, Father Gallen allegedly forced him to perform oral sex.

Shortly after the trip, Kevin said he told two other priests at St. Joseph about the alleged abuse, but they did not believe him.

It was not until 1993, after Kevin had moved to Wisconsin, that he mustered the inner strength again to discuss the alleged abuse.

Kevin contacted the Milwaukee archdiocese and officials responded promptly and compassionately, he said, taking notes of his allegations and immediately offering psychological counseling.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee has been "incredibly supportive," Kevin said, even though the alleged abuse did not occur in his diocese and the priest was from a New York religious order.

"It's really a shame that it took somebody from another diocese to take care of it," Kevin said. "I've been asking the Toledo diocese, which is where it all started, to do something about it and they weren't real receptive."

According to documents from the Milwaukee archdiocese provided to The Blade, a Sept. 7, 1993, memo indicates the Milwaukee archdiocese would notify the Toledo diocese and the head of the Jesuits' New York province, where Father Gallen was living.

Law-enforcement officials in New York also were informed, according to a document from the Archdiocese of New York. But Kevin said the statute of limitations on criminal charges had expired by then.

Toledo diocesan officials said this week that they have no record of being contacted in 1993 and were unaware of Kevin's case until he called them in April, 2002.

The documents obtained by The Blade include handwritten notes, all from 2002, by the late Toledo Bishop Hoffman, Chancellor Michael Billian, and diocesan case manager Frank DiLallo about Kevin's case.

Kevin said Toledo diocesan officials "danced around" the issue of responsibility because Gallen was not a Toledo priest, but the diocese agreed to start paying for his counseling.

The head of the New York Jesuits' province, the Rev. Joseph P. Parkes, wrote to Kevin in November, 1993, and enclosed a letter from Father Gallen.

"While it is true that alcohol messed up my head for that period, that does not take away from the awful impact of my behavior on you," Father Gallen wrote. "I most sincerely offer you apology and deep regret from my heart. I pray that you can forgive me one day. My religious community was good to me, getting me the help I needed. It has changed my life."

Father Gallen again wrote to Kevin on April 6, 1994, saying, "I want to send you this second letter to let you know how deeply sorry I am for causing wounds in your life."

On April 15, 1994, an Illinois attorney notified Father Gallen that he had been retained by Kevin. A little more than six months later, the New York Jesuits paid Kevin the $50,000 confidential settlement.


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