Catholic Church scandal: 395 Illinois priests, deacons accused of sexual misconduct

Aamer Madhani
A report identifies 395 Catholic clergy members in Illinois who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

CHICAGO – Nearly 400 Catholic clergy members in Illinois have been accused of sexual misconduct, but church officials have only informed congregants of a fraction of those who have faced allegations, according to attorneys who represented clergy sex abuse victims across the USA.

A 182-page report, published Wednesday by the Minnesota-based law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, includes the names, background information, photos and assignment histories of each accused clergy member. 

“The danger of sexual abuse in Illinois is clearly a problem of today, not just the past,” the report concludes. “This will continue to be a danger until the identities and histories of sexually abusive clerics, religious employees and seminarians are made public.”

Anderson said he hopes the report will push church leaders to publicly identify hundreds more clergy who faced allegations.

The men named in the report worked in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. Dioceses' officials pushed back on the report's findings.

The Archdiocese of Chicago, which serves about 2.1 million Catholics, said it "does not "police itself."

"It reports all allegations to the civil authorities, regardless of the date of the alleged abuse, whether the priest is a diocesan priest or religious order priest, and whether the priest is alive or dead," the archdiocese said in a statement.

Andrew Hansen, a spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, dismissed the report as "an impressive professional marketing brochure."

He noted one of the priests listed in the report, Rev. Frank Martinez, had spent about six weeks in 1985 working as a hospital chaplain in the central Illinois diocese before resigning his position.

The following year Martinez, who was assigned to a parish in Buffalo, Iowa, was accused of propositioning a 15-year-old boy in an Iowa motel room. Martinez was removed from the ministry in 2004. In 2008, he was included on a list by the Davenport Diocese of 24 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

"(The report) does not represent, as Mr. Anderson suggests, a thorough and diligent review of the publicly available facts, and it is highly misleading and irresponsible," Hansen said.

The Rockford Diocese said in a statement it has not disclosed allegations against many of the clergy on Anderson's list "because the accusations either have not been substantiated or are completely without merit."Joliet Diocese officials also said that allegations against some named on Anderson's list have not been substantiated.

"The list includes a number of priests, living and deceased who, at one time or another provided some ministry within the Diocese of Joliet at some point during their priesthood, but are not priests of the Diocese of Joliet," the Joliet Diocese said in a statement.

Rockford Diocese officials said they were unaware that one former priest named on the list, Rev. Ivan Rovira, had been found to have committed sexual abuse of a child after he left Northern Illinois in the early 1970s. The Brownsville, Texas Diocese earlier this year placed Rovira on its list of "clergy with credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Rovira admitted to Brownsville Diocese officials in 2002 that he had sexually abused a boy during his time working in Texas. He was forced to leave the ministry, and later fled to Mexico, according to the Anderson report.

"Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this list, and the list covers the time frame of 1908, when this diocese was established, to the present," the Rockford Diocese said in its statement. "An allegation against a priest who had an assignment in this diocese but belongs to a religious order or other diocese is referred to the religious order or other diocese to which the priest belongs and is under its jurisdiction."

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Attorneys culled the names of the clergy named in the report from legal settlements and news reports detailing claims of child sexual abuse. Although lawsuits were filed involving many of the alleged perpetrators, the majority of the claims against the individuals were settled, according to the report.

"We've chosen to reveal this information, because the Catholic bishops and religious orders who are in charge and have this information . . . have chosen to conceal it," Anderson said. 

The six Catholic dioceses of Illinois released the names of 185 clergy members who church officials determined were credibly accused of sexual abuse. The Anderson list includes those who were identified by the Illinois dioceses and more than 200 additional priests and deacons.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who left office in January, issued a preliminary report in December that found there are at least 500 clergy from Illinois’ dioceses who have faced allegations of abuse. The church has not publicly acknowledged or thoroughly investigated those claims, Madigan's report found. She did not name those accused of misconduct.

Madigan launched her investigation in August after a landmark Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed claims against more than 300 “predator priests” who had abused at least 1,000 victims over roughly six decades. The former Illinois attorney general said her office was flooded with hundreds of emails and calls from people alleging they were victims of abuse by clergy in Illinois in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania report.

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Madigan is one of at least 14 state attorney generals who have confirmed investigations or reviews after the Pennsylvania report. Madigan’s successor, Kwame Raoul, said before he took office in January that he was committed to continuing the investigation.

“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois,” Madigan said.

Weeks after Madigan released her report, Anderson, along with other attorneys and clergy sex abuse survivors, launched the “Fight for 500” initiative calling on the Illinois dioceses to release the names of clergy.

The list published Wednesday includes priests and deacons whose affiliations in some cases date back decades. Many of the accused have died.

The report notes the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a civil lawsuit in 2007 alleging the Rev. Robert Boley accosted a young girl in the 1980s. Boley moved to a Chicago parish in 1989 and also served at parishes in Darien, Ill., Englewood, N.J., and Louisville, Ky.

“As of 2007, it was believed that Fr. Boley was residing at the Carmelite House in Joliet, Illinois, and working in their archives,” the report says. “Fr. Boley’s current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children are unknown.”

In another case, the report says David Stalzer, an ordained priest in the Joliet diocese, faced a civil lawsuit in 1993, in which he was accused of child sexual abuse while he was working at a diocese parish.

“It is believed that Fr. Stalzer returned to active duty later that year under supervision and purportedly with limited contact with children,” according to the report.

The suit was dismissed in 1994 after the accuser dropped out of sight, according to the Joliet Herald-News. Stalzer died in 2001.

The list includes one priest who is in active ministry, Anderson said.

The priest, who is assigned to a parish on Chicago’s North Side, was temporarily removed from his position in December 2013 after the archdiocese received reports of him molesting a child at another Chicago-area parish where he worked 20 years earlier.

The Chicago Archdiocese reinstated the priest into active ministry months later, after law enforcement found insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Days after he was reinstated, another man came forward and said he saw the same priest molest a teenage boy at a suburban fitness center. The Cook County Sheriff's Office opened an investigation, but the claim was never substantiated no charges were filed.

Anderson defended putting the priest on the list even though authorities had not corroborated the allegations.

“(He) may be innocent, but given the fact that are two public allegations that have been made against him, we feel and believe that it needs to be publicly disclosed as somebody who has been publicly accused and not adjudicated,” Anderson said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Catholic Church scandal: 395 Illinois priests, deacons accused of sexual misconduct