Catholic school, Augustinians settle sex abuse lawsuit for $2M; activists file complaint against Chicagoland dioceses

Anti-abuse activists lodged a Vatican complaint Thursday in response to a $2 million lawsuit settled by a New Lenox Catholic school and the Augustinian religious order, alleging that the “actions and inaction” by Chicagoland Catholic leaders in handling the accused priest is endangering kids.

Former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich filed a lawsuit in April 2018 alleging the school’s longtime principal and president, the Rev. Richard McGrath, repeatedly raped and abused him. Krankvich was between 13 and 15 when he was abused in the school’s gym and wrestling room in the mid-1990s, the lawsuit alleged.

The school and religious order McGrath belongs to finalized the settlement in mid-November, according to Krankvich’s attorney, Marc Pearlman.

McGrath abruptly retired from the school in December 2017 after a student reported she witnessed McGrath view a picture of a naked teenage boy on his phone. The priest “steadfastly refused” to hand over the school-issued phone amid an investigation that ultimately did not lead to criminal charges, New Lenox police said.

After the phone investigation and abuse lawsuit filing, McGrath was considered “illegitimately absent” from his order after refusing to go along with a move Augustinian superiors had ordered him to make to a supervised location, Augustinian leaders said in 2019.

His whereabouts are still unknown, and Catholic officials have done nothing to warn parishioners and the public about him, according to David Clohessy, former director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“It’s fairly safe to assume that he is living among and maybe working among people who don’t have any idea about what he’s done,” Clohessy said at a Thursday news conference outside the Hyde Park friary where McGrath is said to have lived after leaving Providence Catholic before becoming “absent.”

SNAP submitted a complaint Thursday to the Vatican alleging the leaders of McGrath’s order and the dioceses where he worked impeded investigations by not publicly identifying him as credibly accused of sexual abuse.

The priest lived or worked in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Joliet and the Diocese of Rockford, according to SNAP. The organization named in its complaint Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, Joliet Bishop Ronald Hicks, Rockford Bishop David Malloy and two Chicagoland Augustinian leaders.

“These five men are treating one potentially dangerous child predator, Fr. McGrath, like a ‘hot potato,’ doing little or nothing to protect kids while making excuses and claiming he’s someone else’s responsibility,” the complaint said.

The complaint called upon the dioceses and order to immediately include McGrath’s name in lists of credibly accused priests and warn parishioners of him, in part by using church bulletins and speaking from the pulpit.

McGrath’s “faculties as a priest were withdrawn” in March 2018, according to a statement shared Thursday from the Rev. Anthony Pizzo, friar provincial of the Midwest Augustinian Province.

The priest left the friary he had been ordered to stay at in September that year and was considered to be in “stubborn disobedience,” of an order to return, said Pizzo, who is also named in the SNAP complaint.

“He has not done so. Therefore, the Augustinian Province is in the process of dismissing Fr. McGrath.” Pizzo said.

The order is working on a public list of credibly accused priests, a spokesperson said.

The Diocese of Joliet and Diocese of Rockford did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago said the archdiocese lists priests and deacons who have substantiated allegations on its website, but leaves determinations involving priests affiliated with religious orders to their orders.

“They alone have the records to make a determination if an allegation is substantiated,” the archdiocese’s statement said.

Clohessy said McGrath should be defrocked and denounced.

“He’s walking around right now unsupervised, unmonitored, unpunished and very, very likely unrepentant and unreformed,” he said.

Clohessy and Pearlman called on the Augustinians to immediately publicly share a list of credibly accused priests.

“There’s no reason that list can’t be posted tomorrow,” Clohessy said, adding that the dioceses should also more regularly identify credibly accused priests that belong to religious orders, but who work alongside the diocese in schools and churches.

Pearlman praised Krankvich as a “hero.” If he hadn’t come forward two decades after his abuse, the priest might have been able to continue his work after the child pornography allegations, Pearlman said.

“It would have gone away,” he said. “The police did not have enough evidence to charge, and what likely would have occurred is nothing.”

Krankvich came forward for one reason, Pearlman said.

“For children to be protected and safe,” he said.

Krankvich called for people who have been abused by priests to come forward to law enforcement, groups such as SNAP and attorneys.

The lawsuit settlement comes six months after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a report on an investigation that determined Catholic leaders in Illinois vastly underreported clergy sex abuse against children, finding that “decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight.”

The 700-page report named 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 people across Illinois since 1950. It did not name McGrath.