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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2015

For more information:
Marlene Mulford: Office:(217) 698-8500
Cell: (217) 622-4996
Email:

NEWS CONFERENCE OPENING STATEMENT
BISHOP THOMAS JOHN PAPROCKI

March 10, 2015

pdfSafe Environment and Victim Assistance Press Conference Addendum

Watch the Archived Video Footage from the Press Conference 

Last week at a news conference Call to Action of Central Illinois and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, issued statements full of unfounded gossip and false rumors that were subsequently reported in the media. The headline in the State Journal-Register on March 4 read, “More transparency on abusive priests asked of Springfield bishop,” so I am here to put these rumors and gossip to rest and tell you the facts as known to me and to the diocese.

First, it is alleged that two out-of-state “predator priests” spent time in the Diocese of Springfield. Reverend Frank R. Martinez, from the Diocese of Davenport, was appointed Chaplain for St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, effective October 7, 1985. Just a month later, on November 11, 1985, Father Martinez resigned as chaplain effective December 25, 1985. There were no allegations against Father Martinez known to the Diocese of Springfield prior to his assignment here. In fact, the timeline on the website, www.bishop-accountability.org/ia-davenport/assignments/Martinez-Frank-R-Jr-Davenport-IA.htm, states that the first allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor was lodged against Father Martinez on December 26, 1986, more than a year after he left our diocese.

The other priest named, Rev. James Fitzgerald, was ordained in 1950 and was at St. Joseph Novitiate in Godfrey over sixty years ago, from 1951-1953. This was long before there were any allegations against him. Father Fitzgerald did not reside or work in the diocese after 1953.

SNAP also wants an explanation as to why six priests withdrawn from their Chicago parishes in the 1990s appeared in an official Catholic directory with the same Litchfield phone number. The six priests named were Father David F. Braun, Father Eugene P. Burns, Father William J. Cloutier, Father Norbert J. Maday, Father Robert E. Mayerand Father Kenneth C. Ruge. I am familiar with the cases of these priests from my work as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago and as the Cardinal’s Delegate for the Professional Fitness Review Board. From my own personal knowledge and according to our files here, none of these priests was ever assigned to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. None of these men received faculties for this diocese. In searching old copies of the Official Catholic Directory, it appears that in 1993 all six men were indeed listed as having the same phone number: 217-324-4192. The only Catholic institutions in that area were Holy Family Parish and St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield. The phone numbers for both the parish and the hospital were not then nor are they now the number listed for these six priests.

Further searches of the Official Catholic Directory on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s pages under the categories of “Graduate Studies,” “Absent on Sick Leave,” “On Duty Outside the Archdiocese,” “Retired,” “Missionary Work,” “Military Chaplains” and “Other Assignments” found the names of 277 priests listed in these eight categories. Cross-checking their names in the index, the same Litchfield phone number was listed for 265 of those 277 priests. The repetition of this same phone number for 265 priests is clearly a mistake.

There was one priest from Chicago, Father John Hannigan, against whom no allegations were ever made, who was serving at St. Maurice in Morrisonville in 1993 and was listed as living in a house at 611 E. Clark St., Litchfield, IL 62056-1321, with the telephone number 217-324-4192. Father Hannigan was given permission by Bishop Ryan and Cardinal Bernardin to work in our diocese so that he could assist his mother. He and his mother had purchased a home at 611 Clark Street in Litchfield. After Father Hannigan served at St. Maurice Parish, he continued to live in Litchfield for several years so that he could care for his mother. As listed in our 1993 directory, Father Hannigan could be reached at either 217-324-4192 (the number for the home where he lived with his mother) or at the number for the parish in Morrisonville.

It is clear that the listing of this same phone number for 265 priests from Chicago, including the six named above, supposedly living at a private home in Litchfield, is a typographical mistake or a computer word-processing error. The likely explanation is that Father Hannigan was living in the house and somehow his personal phone number was mistakenly listed as the phone number for the majority of priests from Chicago serving outside the diocese. It is a shame that someone can call a press conference and make false and defamatory claims that the media then report without question suggesting that “predatory priests may have served” in our diocese simply because they had a phone number with a 217 area code that it took my staff just a few hours of research to uncover as a mistake.

My predecessor, Archbishop George Lucas, who served here as Bishop from 1999 to 2009, has assured me that he “never accepted a priest for public ministry in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois nor gave faculties to any priest who was known to have abused a minor.”  Some members of religious orders who may have had credible allegations of abuse were in residence in their communities and did not have public ministry. Archbishop Lucas’ immediate predecessor, Bishop Daniel Ryan, who served as diocesan Bishop of Springfield in Illinois from 1984-1999, also says that he “never accepted a priest for ministry in the diocese nor bestowed faculties of the diocese on any priest who was knowingly accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.”  As Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, he “required all priests from other dioceses or religious communities who requested faculties to minister in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to present a letter of endorsement from their religious superior or diocesan bishop.”

According to Archbishop Lucas, the Diocese of Springfield did their own search of the files when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.  There were no priests in ministry at that time with a history of abuse, so no one had to be removed from ministry at that time because of a previous incident.  There was already a well-functioning Review Board when Archbishop Lucas came to this diocese in 1999.  Several years after the Charter was adopted, an outside auditor examined all the clergy files.  There was a commitment by all in the diocesan administration, along with the Review Board, that no priest guilty of abuse of a minor would be involved in public ministry.

That policy remains in effect today. To our knowledge, there is no priest, deacon, religious sister or brother or lay person in ministry in our diocese against whom a credible allegation of child sexual abuse has been made.

The Diocese has established safe environment programs to help protect children from sexual abuse and child molestation. These include:

  • A code of conduct for employees and volunteers who work with children and youth. This code makes clear what acceptable behavior is and the standards of conduct regarding sexual abuse and harassment.

  • A code of conduct for clergy and religious leaders who work with children and youth. This code makes clear what acceptable behavior is and the standards of conduct regarding sexual abuse and harassment.

  • All priests, lay ecclesial ministers, educators, church personnel, parents and volunteers are required to attend the diocese’s Virtus® Protecting God's Children Training and undergo a Criminal History Background Check. They are briefed on preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting child abuse. From 2002 through today 46,400 members of our diocese have received Safe Environment training and background checks.

Our diocese stands ready to assist victims of sexual misconduct with minors through our victim assistance ministry. To report allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy -- even if it is in the past -- individuals are encouraged to call the Diocese’s Child Abuse Reporting and Investigation number at 217-321-1155.

Individuals may also contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE.

I hope this information sets the record straight and clears up the inaccurate statements that have been made about our diocese. I will now open the floor to any questions that you might have.

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