Religious institutions are meant to provide community, leadership and common ground for society. They gain the trust of individuals and families by providing a place to worship, learn, and socialize. Unfortunately, that trust isn’t always as sacred as we might hope. Exploitative faith leaders sometimes use their position in the community to take advantage of their most naive followers. Nowhere is this more true than in the Catholic Church.
Despite – or perhaps because of – its role as one of the most powerful institutions anywhere, the Catholic Church has gained a bad reputation for protecting abusive priests. While once respected for its storied traditions and international outreach, the church has sullied its good name by covering up the predatory actions of hundreds of clergy members. The Diocese of Peoria is no exception; at least 29 priests have been accused of abuse during their tenure there.
It’s never easy to share one's story of abuse, but it can be even harder to speak up when the person responsible is so well-respected. This dynamic is what has allowed so many priests to continue working in spite of abuse allegations. As more and more survivors find their voices, though, individual priests and the Catholic Church are being held more accountable for their roles in the sexual abuse crisis.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to obtaining justice for people who have been sexually abused by official with the Peoria Diocese. Contact a Peoria Diocese sexual abuse lawyer at our office for a free and confidential case review.
Abuse Allegations in the Diocese of Peoria
In 2002, seven Peoria priests were stripped of their collars following sexual abuse allegations. Three more were removed from their posts in 2018. Tragically, these decisions may have been the tip of the iceberg – a new report names as many as 29 additional priests allegedly responsible for abusing parishioners.
While legal action has been taken by survivors of abuse in other parts of the state, no lawsuits against Peoria priests have been filed thus far. In spite of credible allegations against them, the priests named in the most recent report of sexual abuse have simply been shuffled around to new communities after being accused. Many remain active in the church to this day.
Learning of this abuse – and the continued efforts to protect alleged abusers – can be difficult. A database of the accusations levied against the priests in Peoria has been created, but reading through it can be hard to stomach. Whether or not you decide to wade through the allegations, it’s important to remember the power of documentation. By discussing and sharing these stories, we ensure the plight of survivors is not forgotten.
|Name:||Date of Ordination:||Action Taken:||Current Status:|
|Anderson, John C||1959||One of 8 priests who were removed 4/2002; Named in 10/2018 suit against all of the Catholic dioceses in IL; He was said to have sexually abused a plaintiff at St. Edward's in Chillicothe in the late 1970s early 1980s.||Accused|
|Beebe, Charles||1970||Monsignot; Retired in 2016; Accused in 2018 of sexual abuse of a 15 year old boy in 1981 at the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute; Placed on leave in 6/2018 and police were contacted; Allegations deemed "unsubstantiated" and he was reinstated||Accused|
|Breuning/Bruening, Walter A.||1954||Retired in 1999; Removed from public ministry in 2002 after allegation of sexual abuse of minors 20 - 40 years prior; Three suits filed in 12/2005 alleged child abuse||Deceased 11/2/2009|
|Bush, Edward E.||1957||In 2002, 2 women accuse Bush of sexual misconduct against them when they were in 6th and 8th grades; Removed from ministry 5/2002; Did not deny charges and agreed to resign from all active ministry; he sued the Diocese for defamation in 9/2002||Accused|
|Cassidy, Terry||1984||Removal from public ministry 8/26/2015 due to accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor 30 years prior; Pastor of St. Ann's in Peoria since 1999||Accused|
|Cody, J. George||2011 a woman made public her allegations that Cody had abused her and other girls in 1950s when she was 12 and a polio patient at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center||Deceased 1964|
|Condon, Louis||1948||Removed from active ministry in 1986; 2005 accused of improperly touching and fondling a girl between 1958 and 1960 when she was 6 - 9 years old||Deceased 2/17/2009|
|Creager, Robert J||1954||One of 7 priests asked to step down from public ministry 5/2002 because of allegations of sexual abuse; Retired 1998||Deceased 10/25/2008|
|Engels, Francis (Frank)||1962||He and 2 other priests accused of abusing youth in 19783; Put on leave in 1993 when family took accusations to media; Admitted to abusing a youth in 1980s; pled guilty in 4/2005 to sexually abusing a teenage altar boy during trips to Milwaukee in the early 1980s; sentenced in 6/2005 to 10 years in WI prison||Convicted|
|Goodman, Norman D||1960||12 young med filed suits alleging that Goodman abused them (1980s) and that at least twice diocesan officials were informed of the abuse but failed to take action; Resigned from parish in 1997; Settlement with the 13 in 1999; Permanent leave in 2002||Deceased 8/1/2013|
|Harbert, William||1962||Admitted to abusing a 14 year old in 1982; Accused of abusing 3 siblings; Resigned from public ministry in 1993 after admitting he abused another youth; Settled 2005||Deceased 4/24/2003|
|Hiland, George H||1958||Retired 1994; Removed from public ministry in 11/2018 due to allegations deemed credible of sexual misconduct with a minor; in 2014 known to be living in Sebastian, FL||Accused|
|Leclercq, M. Duane||1964||Retired 2008; Removed 11/2018 from public ministry due to allegations deemed credible of sexual misconduct||Accused|
|Maloney, Thomas W||1967||6/2008 accused of abuse of an 8 year old altar boy; abuse against a woman in 1995/1996; Retired in 9/2002||Deceased 8/7/2009|
|Mary Jane, Sister||2005 accused of sexually abusing a girl age 6 - 7 at St. Patrick Catholic School in Washington||Sued|
|Miller, Thomas R||1979||Placed on leave in 2004 after a man alleged that when he was a minor he had been sexually assaulted by Miller in 1979 in Bloomington; Others came forward with similar allegations; Laicized 11/2006||Accused|
|Onderko, John M||1962||Retired 2005; Removed 11/2018 from public ministry due to allegations of sexual misconduct||Accused|
|Perron, Toussaint J||1959||Fr. Jeff removed from public ministry in 1992; convicted 1993 of aggravated sexual abuse of boy, 14, at St. John's in Walnut, IL; Served 3 years; Settled 5/2008||Deceased 8/23/2011|
|Pilon, Jerome||1989||On leave 1/2009 for accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor;||Accused|
|Plunkett, Gregory J||1988||Removed 5/2002 after allegations of sexual abuse of a 13 year old boy; suspended after other allegations; filed suit 2/2204 and settled 3/2005||Deceased 10/2/2011|
|Pusateri, Samuel D||1979||6 year jail sentence after pleading guilty in 1991 to abusing a teenage student in 1990||Convicted|
|Slavish, Richard||1959||He and 6 other priests were placed on leave by Bishop in May 2002 after abuse allegations involving minors; Retired summer 2002||Accused|
|Turnbull (OFM), John B||1955||Leave in 2005; Abused a boy in late 1970s at St. Anthony's in Streator, IL||Accused|
|Van Acker, Michael R||1981||Medical center chaplain and former chaplain at several high schools, placed on leave 6/2002 because of allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor in the early 1980s||Accused|
Sexual Abuse Allegations in the Catholic Church
Abuse allegations have been made against members of the Catholic Church for decades. It took until the 1980s for many of these accusations to be taken seriously, though. Extensive media coverage of the crisis gave survivors a platform to share their experiences. We may never know the full extent of the church’s abuse problem, but it’s become clear that a culture of secrecy helped protect the priests accused.
Upon learning of instances of abuse, the Catholic Church has repeatedly opted to relocate the accused clergy members to new parishes. This strategy protects the alleged abusers while exposing new groups of worshippers to predatory priests. Though church leaders have acknowledged the sexual abuse crisis and apologized to victims at large, little has been done to hold the accused responsible for their behavior.
A Lack of Internal Accountability in the Peoria Diocese
The Catholic Church’s abuse problem has garnered international headlines. Unfortunately, though, not much has been done to prevent further victimization of parishioners. Rather than share what they know with police, church leaders have repeatedly attempted to cover up priestly impropriety. Though the Pope and other leaders may claim to work towards internal accountability, such efforts rarely result in justice for victims. Instead, the same old abusive clergy members are simply relocated.
Ultimately, the Catholic Church knows that these allegations are bad publicity. They would rather risk the additional abuse of churchgoers than admit wrongdoing at an institutional level. This contributes to the ongoing protection of abusers – and the continued injustice of survivors.
Life After Abuse
The impact of child sexual abuse on the victim can be devastating. In the short-term, children may feel shame, fear, and distrustful of others. They may develop behavioral problems, eating disorders, and struggle in school. Even after the initial shock of abuse has worn off, survivors may struggle with depression and anxiety for the rest of their lives. Trust in authority figures becomes nearly impossible, and seeking help often feels like an uphill battle.
Survivors who seek help are often re-victimized all over again. It’s never easy to speak truth to power, but when a beloved church leader’s reputation is on the line, the allegations can fall on deaf ears. Too often, speaking up about abuse brings nothing but conflict and isolation from a community the victim once trusted.
Thankfully, there are resources for survivors of sexual abuse in the church. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, works to support victims and hold predators responsible. They connect survivors with therapists, victims’ assistance offices, and legal tools to aid in their journey post-abuse. Such resources can be lifelines for those suffering from the effects of sex abuse.
Justice for Peoria Diocese Sex Abuse
While nothing can undo the damage done by predatory Catholic priests in the Peoria Diocese, legal action can help bring abusers to justice and provide a sense of closure for victims. If you or someone you love has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a clergy member, you may want to schedule a consultation with our firm. We’re passionate about protecting the rights of victims while holding predators responsible for their crimes. A single meeting with our team can provide real hope for victims looking for allies in the fight against abusers. Call now to schedule your consultation.