As one of the largest and most important religious institutions in history, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have shaken the world. That such darkness could creep into a place of supposed salvation has caused immense pain and confusion for followers, onlookers, and survivors alike. The Church’s response has been milquetoast at best and insidious at worst, with many allegations completely ignored or covered up by high-ranking officials. The sheer scale of this abuse – and that much of it involved children – has brought it growing notoriety in recent years.
That international scale has unfortunately brought this to the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois right in our own neighborhood. Many credible allegations against priests and other officials in the Diocese of Springfield have been documented and/or prosecuted. With so much of this abuse minimized by the church, many victims have used legal avenues to obtain justice. While there is no best way for survivors to find closure for their trauma, civil lawsuits are one of the most effective and serve to document the abuse, preserving the truth forever.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to holding the Springfield Diocese accountable for the acts of their clergy and priests. Contact our office for a free and confidential consultation with a Springfield Diocese sex abuse lawyer today.
Abuse in the Diocese of Springfield, IL
In Springfield, 32 priests have been accused of sexual abuse. Given that nearly 400 Illinois priests were named in a comprehensive report – and that many sexual assault cases go unreported – the damage could be much more extensive, and the list will likely grow. SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) continues to put pressure on the diocese through protests and gradual disclosure of more accusations.
Response from the Diocese of Springfield has been mixed. In a statement, the Diocese expressed sympathy for abuse victims, acknowledged the legacy of abuse in the Catholic church, and encouraged victims to report incidents to the authorities. However, the Diocese also disputes some claims in the report, and their emphasis on many crimes being committed long ago constitutes a certain minimization of their severity.
Without serious structural change in the Catholic Church and a major reckoning from its officials, many of these abusers – even those deceased or no longer in clergy – could escape justice forever. Worse, abuse could continue.
|Name:||Date of Ordination:||Action Taken:||Current Status:|
|Campbell, Alvin||1952||Arrested on sex assault charges in 1985; owned child porn; history of abuse involving numerous victims going back at least 20 years; convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison; released 1992; Laicized around 1992||Deceased 12/2/2002|
|Cernich, Joseph D||1983||Faculties removed 4/1995; laicized 6/2003||Accused; Laicized|
|Costa, Eugene E||1976||Accused by the diocese on its list 11/29/2018; Worked at Holy Family in Decatur 1987 - 1993; Beaten after propositioning two males for sex; Removed from ministry||Laicized 10/12/2017|
|Dee, Garrett Neal||1964||In treatment for a year before moving to TX; 1960s abused a man in IL; Dee admitted to sexual misconduct; Removal from active ministry 7/31/2002||Accused|
|DeGrand, Robert||1980||Removed 9/2013 from parishes after sexual misconduct allegation since 5/1/2015 against a minor dating back to 1980; remain on leave; not in active ministry since 5/1/2015||Accused|
|Dodd, Robert||1964||Had a relationship with a 15 year old girl which continued for several years; Married and left the priesthood in 1971; Became an attorney and served as mayor of Champaign 1983 - 1987||Deceased 3/28/2013|
|Downey, Kevin J||1982||Suspended during an investigation of sexual misconduct with a male minor 1990; Removed permanently from all public ministries||Accused|
|Driscoll, Michael||1941||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 5/15/1989|
|Eagear, Robert||1928||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 9/22/1984|
|Faller, George||1918||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 10/23/1975|
|Franzen, Ray||1940||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 10/4/1987|
|Havey, Joseph||1971||Accused of abuse of at least 5 boys in 70s and 80s, sued in 1993; suit says he provided pornography and drugs and alcohol; suit dismissed in 1995 on SOL; left priesthood and married; Laicized 4/2006||Laicized|
|Kromenaker, George||1947||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 5/10/2010|
|Niebrugge, Richard||2004 woman filed suit alleging abuse for many years beginning when she was 10 and had fathered her child (born 1978); Suit dismissed on SOL||Deceased 1983|
|O'Brien, Joseph C||1942||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 3/271978|
|O'Hara, Frank J||1941||9/2008 two women filed suit of sexual abuse while at St. Kevin's Catholic Church in Rosweood Heights||Deceased 4/2006|
|O'Hara, James Patrick||1945||Substantiated case of sexual abuse of a minor||Deceased 11/15/1987|
|Ryan (Bp), Daniel||1956||Possibly involved in homosexual relationships; resigned as Bishop of Springfield when the suit was filed; suspended all public ministry in 2002||Deceased 12/31/2015|
|Schlangen, Louis||1957||Retired 2007; Accused in lawsuit of sexual abuse of a girl in 1973 - 1975 when se was 5 - 7 years old||Deceased by 10/2018|
|Schwellenback, Aloysius||1928||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Deceased 9/15/2000|
|Shea, Louis C||1955||Substantiated case of sexual abuse of a minor; One girl says she was molested weekly from 1962 - 1965 (ages 7 - 10); Temporarily pulled from Catholic Charities position and worked as a hospital chaplain||Deceased 11/15/1996|
|Tebangura, Francis||1968||Publicly as accused on diocese's list 11/29/2018||Reportedly returned to native Uganda|
|Weerts, Walter M||1960||Pled guilty in 1986 to abuse of 3 boys; sentenced to 6 years in prison; Laicized after prison release||Deceased 3/2/1989|
|Westhoff, Frank D||1961||Accusations that he abused a 14 year old in St. Patrick's in Decatur, IL 1966; Retired 2003; Additional molestation case was reported in MO||Deceased 1/2006|
|Yunker, Stanislaus||before 1944||Named in a lawsuit 10/2018 for sexually abusing a girl in 1972 - 1975 when she was 4 - 7||Deceased 1975|
When did Allegations Start?
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church dates back centuries; as early as the 15th century, young girls were removed from an abbey due to molestation by priests. In 1940s America, priest Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, designed to treat Roman Catholic Priests who struggled with personal conduct – sexual or otherwise. To his credit, Fitzgerald spoke against sexual abusers to Pope Paul VI in the 60s, insisting that abusers would re-offend and must be returned to ministry.
Allegations significantly ramped up in the 80s and 90s; strong protests such as Sinead O’Connor’s famous Saturday Night Live performance (where she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul on air) brought increased public attention. According to the Pew Research Center, coverage reached a new high after an expose in the Boston Globe in 2002. In 2004, an investigation by the Dallas Morning News revealed some 100 cases where clergy attempted to elude law enforcement.
In 2017, Pope Francis admitted that the Church had a staggering 2,000 case backlog.
Coverups and an Opaque Church
With potentially centuries of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, it begs the question: what took so long for allegations to be taken seriously?
Social factors are one reason. Discussion about sexual abuse has become more accepted in the mainstream, and victims are being taken more seriously; this is especially important given the power and ubiquity of institutions like the Catholic church.
But the primary fault lay with the church itself. Rather than bring in outside law enforcement, church leaders have repeatedly chosen to handle sexual abuse allegations internally. The problems with this are obvious: while even well-intentioned officials may feel responsibility towards victims, their livelihood and faith are caught up in protecting the institution of the Church. There is also an obvious PR nightmare involved.
As a result, a frequent response by the Church is not to discipline offenders, but simply move them around to different dioceses. Such moves are often made covertly and without revealing the reason to the destination diocese, allowing abusers to re-offend and escape justice from law enforcement.
Surviving Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is almost always about power. We’ve seen this more plainly in the age of #MeToo in Hollywood and the corporate environment, but in the church the same dynamics were almost certainly at play. Many victims were children when they were first abused; younger victims are less likely to report abuse due to their inclination to trust adults and authority. Such predation reflects a flagrant abuse of the power afforded to priests in the Catholic Church.
Survivors of such abuse may never receive treatment, and their suffering is carried in silence, haunting them throughout their lives. While some survivors seek therapy, the humiliation and trauma of sexual abuse make it difficult to speak up. This abuse of power, combined with the long reckoning process for victims, means that many predators may never be punished.
Victims of sexual abuse carry more than memories; they often develop depression and anxiety, including severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Eating disorders – often an effect of shame and negative self-image – can cause physical harm to victims decades after the abuse. That’s not to mention a loss of faith after such an abuse so close to a holy place, which can shake victims to their core and introduce difficult, existential questions.
Where is Justice After Springfield Diocese Sex Abuse?
As stories of sexual abuse in the Catholic abuse have become more mainstream, justice is not as elusive as it once was. Despite this, allegations continue, and an outside audit of the Church found recent efforts on their parts seriously lacking. More work is required, and true justice will not be found until the Church itself implements serious structural changes.
Though Statutes of Limitations often prevent criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits are one of the most effective ways for victims to empower themselves in the face of horrific trauma. Legal battles against the Catholic church require skilled, sensitive, and fierce legal representation.
If you’ve suffered abuse from a priest in the Diocese of Springfield, IL, our firm can help. Schedule a free consultation with our experienced, discreet, and professional Springfield Diocese sexual abuse attorneys today. You deserve justice.