False Shepherd, Part IV: More Damage and Corruption

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by Joseph M. Hanneman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 27, 2020   

Bishop Ryan's 'retirement' doesn't stop sex scandals

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Read Part III

Editor's Note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse of minors and adults that readers might find disturbing. This material is not intended for children. If you or someone you know was sexually abused, contact local law enforcement for help.


"Bishop Ryan raped me!" If anyone thought Daniel L. Ryan's removal from public life would stop the sex scandals surrounding the retired Illinois prelate, they were sadly mistaken. A woman in the 1400 block of Guemes Court on the northwest side of Springfield called 911 after a crying, frantic man came to her door at 6 a.m. stating Ryan raped him.

According to the Springfield Police Department incident report, the alleged sexual assault actually occurred several months earlier. The complainant, Timothy R. Hugo, 44, said Bp. Ryan invited him to his home after Hugo called a diocesan helpline. Ryan occasionally answered phones at the Catholic Pastoral Center after his October 1999 resignation as bishop. Hugo called the chancery in April 2004 looking for a religious-order brother that he knew. Instead, he ended up speaking with Ryan. The bishop emeritus gave Hugo his private cell phone number and encouraged him to call. Flattered by the attention from a bishop, Hugo later called the number, and before long he had an invitation to visit Bp. Ryan at the home he received from the diocese for his retirement.

After lying down in Ryan's bed, Hugo said the bishop disrobed and laid down next to him.

He was impressed with Bp. Ryan's cache of expensive beverages. "All of this fine, imported alcohol and his refrigerator is chock full of it," Hugo said. "And so I went in and helped myself, and then he would say, 'Would you like another drink?' and I'd say, 'Yeah.' And so I got another drink and then I kept drinking and he said ... "'You're getting tired, would you like to go to bed?’ And I said, ‘Well, I better go home.’" 

Image

Timothy R. Hugo told RCF that Bp. Ryan used a diocesan
charity account to buy him clothing and gifts. (Photo: RCF)

Hugo had recently come to Springfield to be near his mother, whom he said was in a nursing home, dying of ovarian cancer. He had his share of troubles, including a nervous breakdown suffered at a teaching job in Oklahoma. He was taking prescription medications — something Bp. Ryan knew the day Hugo first showed up at his door. After lying down in Ryan's bed, Hugo said the bishop disrobed and laid down next to him. According to the police report, "Ryan, who admits to being a homosexual, told (Hugo) he could not have intercourse with him because he is a prophet of God and that the pope says that homosexuality is abnormal and immoral." Still, the report said, Bp. Ryan took Hugo's pants off and performed "un-consensual sex on him that lasted a period of 10 minutes."1 Hugo told police that Ryan also took "many" nude photos of him.

Hugo's account of the alleged assault by the retired bishop is part of a nearly 570-page investigative report compiled over eight years by The Roman Catholic Faithful Inc. (RCF), a watchdog group based in Petersburg, Ill. The report asserts Bp. Ryan was a serial homosexual predator who sexually assaulted minors, sexually harassed priests and regularly consorted with male prostitutes.

For more than two months, Hugo had been Bp. Ryan's frequent guest at dinners on the town. The retired bishop gave him gifts and even bought a plane ticket so Hugo could accompany him on a month-long vacation to Germany and Lisbon, Portugal in early 2005. Bp. Ryan told Hugo there was a special sex shop in Munich he wanted to visit, the report said. Ryan bought new clothes, shoes and jewelry for Hugo for that trip using a checkbook from a diocesan charity account.2

Hugo often stopped at the nearby pastoral center, sometimes picking up Bp. Ryan's mail. Then-Bishop George J. Lucas even autographed a photo for him. "Lucas had met Tim and knew he was keeping company with Ryan," wrote Stephen G. Brady, RCF president and chief investigator. "Ryan heard Tim's confession at least once and possibly twice during their relationship."3 During Hugo's conversations with Ryan, the subject of the Catholic Faith came up. "He (Ryan) doesn't agree with the pope's stance on homosexuality," Hugo said. "He doesn't believe that there's anything wrong with that." Hugo said he witnessed Bp. Ryan kiss a priest on the lips at one Springfield parish in spring 2004. The priest "returned the kiss while the two embraced," he said.4

Hugo told RCF that Bp. Ryan had a regular overnight visitor from the archdiocese of Chicago who traveled to Springfield on Amtrak and stayed for a few days at a time. One day Hugo stopped at Bp. Ryan's house during the man's visit. "He was all mesmerized with wanting to try on Ryan's miter — and he'd parade around with it," Hugo said. "He loved to get into his regalia and he liked Bp. Ryan's stoles."

Image

In retirement, Bp. Ryan lived in this home provided to him by
the diocese of Springfield in Illinois. (Photo: Google Maps)

The trouble between Hugo and Ryan started the night Hugo brought a boyfriend to dinner with the bishop emeritus. Bp. Ryan took a real liking to the 20-something man, telling Hugo he might just have to steal his boyfriend. During the meal, Hugo said, Ryan told him, "You can just leave."

The next morning, July 5, Hugo went to Bp. Ryan's house to see if his friend spent the night. Hugo said Ryan told him to leave. When he refused and threatened to call police and the media to expose their relationship, "Ryan kicked him on his right knee," the police report said. That's when Hugo ran to the neighbor's house for help. He told the neighbor that Bp. Ryan "gives you alcohol and then takes advantage of you."5 When questioned by police, Ryan denied having a sexual relationship with Hugo, and said he never kicked him. He suggested that the visible injury to Hugo's knee was probably suffered in a fall from a bicycle. No arrests were made in the case. Police cited conflicting statements and the lack of independent witnesses for the decision to drop the matter.

"In my opinion," Brady wrote, "Ryan had, with the help of the Springfield hierarchy, raped a 45-year-old man who was considered mentally disabled by the state. At moments like these, I feel like breaking somebody's nose (figuratively speaking, of course)."

Move 'em out, Set 'em up

Bishop Ryan had a choice to make. In early spring 1984, across the desk sat Charles A. Gruber, police chief of Quincy, Ill., a city on the western edge of the diocese. The topic was sexual-abuse allegations made against the Rev. Arthur D. LeBreton, 66, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Quincy. Gruber had questioned a number of children in the parish and said he had enough evidence to show Bp. Ryan he had a big problem in Fr. LeBreton. "I told him he had to do something," Gruber said in an interview. "He had to take him out or I was going to open it (an investigation) up and charge him. I was going to present it to the state's attorney." 

Image

Former Quincy Police Chief Charles A. Gruber
confronted Bp. Ryan about abuse allegedly committed
by Fr. Arthur D. LeBreton. (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

Gruber said it wasn't necessarily a slam-dunk case, but he was ready to proceed. "I went over to Springfield and met with the bishop and told the bishop that he either removed him or did something, or I was probably going to charge him (LeBreton); just to bring light on it, shed light on it," Gruber said. "They took him out."6 The LeBreton case has never been disclosed publicly before.

LeBreton had been pastor at St. Peter since 1974 and was well known in Catholic education circles as a pioneer in adapting technology to the classroom. Gruber, former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, is now a consultant for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He declined to share specifics of what the school children reported. Responding to a freedom of information request in 2019, the Quincy Police Department said it has no investigative records on the priest.7  

Father LeBreton vehemently denied any wrongdoing. When notified by Bp. Ryan that he was being retired, the priest did not want to leave his rectory. The story still circulates in Quincy that he was carried bodily from the parish grounds. "I don't recall any of that happening," said Gruber, who was also a St. Peter parishioner. "The Church took care of it. It was not widely known among the parishioners in the community. He was there and then he was gone."

Image

Rev. Arthur D. LeBreton, seen here teaching on television in 1961,
was investigated by Quincy police in 1984 for alleged molestation
of minors. (Photo: Decatur Sunday Herald and Review)

Rather than have his priest arrested and charged with criminal acts, Bp. Ryan chose to send Fr. LeBreton into retirement in Florida. LeBreton moved onto a quiet street in the Ridgewood Estates section of Sarasota, where he lived with his brother, Richard J. LeBreton, 60. Father LeBreton was not there even two years when he died on October 8, 1986.8 He was 68. Bishop Ryan was the principal celebrant at his funeral Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.9 More than 30 years later, when the diocese of Springfield published its list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors, Fr. LeBreton's name was not on it.10 The diocese of Springfield did not respond when questioned about Fr. LeBreton's case.11

Gruber said the Church should have taken more action on sexual abuse of minors long ago. "The Church is not able to hide it anymore from the community. Years ago they could have gotten in front of a lot of these problems if they had been willing to accept responsibility and also to take corrective action, which they never did."

Bishop Ryan faced a second case of alleged sexual abuse of children by a priest in Quincy during his first six months on the job. In that instance, he also chose to quickly move the priest out of town and later arranged for him to "retire" in the diocese of Little Rock, Ark. Details of this case are also being disclosed for the first time.

In March 1984, the diocese was confronted by furious parents who alleged their son had been molested by the Rev. Aloysius J. Schwellenbach, 62, the longtime pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Quincy and the former diocesan director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). News of the molestation came out when a group of families was at game night at one of their homes. "The parents were talking about how great Schwellenbach was," said a witness who knew some of the boys. "One of the boys interrupted them and said that Schwellenbach was touching him, kissing him like a boy does a girl."12

Image

Rev. Landry Genosky, OFM

Schwellenbach abruptly disappeared from St. John and Quincy a short time later. The Rev. Landry Genosky, O.F.M., reported a strange encounter with Schwellenbach in the St. John sacristy during the third week of March 1984. "I was going to have the Mass at St. John's at 5:30 in the evening," Genosky said, according to a friend who spoke with the priest.13 "Father Schwellenbach threw the keys at me and said, 'Here, I've got to get out of town. You've got to take care of the wedding.' I wasn't even prepared for a wedding."

And that was it. Officially, Schwellenbach resigned for "health reasons" on March 22, 1984. Schwellenbach was off to a treatment center for a few months. Then he moved back to his mother's place in suburban Chicago to help care for her. She died in 1985. In 1988, Schwellenbach moved to Mountain Home, Ark., and built a 3,100-square-foot ranch home a short distance from St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church. The diocese of Little Rock said Schwellenbach was retired and had no role at St. Peter. However, Mountain Home newspaper archives show he presided at dozens of funerals and other Masses at St. Peter between 1988 and his death in September 2000. He was also the chaplain for the local Knights of Columbus council.14 He could not have functioned as a priest in Arkansas without the local bishop's permission.

Robert O'Donnell, a former St. John altar boy who alleged he was sexually assaulted by Schwellenbach for four years in the late 1970s, said Bp. Ryan blamed former Bp. Joseph A. McNicholas for not taking action against Schwellenbach before McNicholas died in 1983.15 O'Donnell, who said he fought for months to secure a meeting with Bp. Ryan to report the abuse, said the bishop told him Schwellenbach got into trouble in the diocese of Little Rock. (O'Donnell's story will be the focus of an upcoming profile at Church Militant).

Image

Robert O'Donnell Sr. points to a room in the former St. John rectory
in Quincy, Ill., where he said he was sexually assaulted by the
Rev. Aloysius J. Schwellenbach. (Photo: Joseph M. Hanneman)

"I received a phone call from the bishop of the Little Rock, Ark., diocese, Bp. [Andrew J.] McDonald," O'Donnell said. "He said that Bp. Ryan had told him to call me. He said that he had received some letters from concerned parishioners that Fr. Schwellenbach might be molesting some boys from a particular parish."16 Dennis Lee, chancellor of the diocese of Little Rock, said the chancery did not have a personnel file on Schwellenbach and no record of complaints against him. "We do not know of any record of a phone conversation between a Robert O'Donnell and the late Bp. Andrew J. McDonald," Lee wrote in an e-mail. Bishop Emeritus McDonald retired in 2000 and died in 2014. Schwellenbach concelebrated Mass with Bp. McDonald at St. Peter the Fisherman in July 1989.17

Image

Rev. Aloysius J. Schwellenbach (inset) was quickly removed from his pastor role in 1984 when
parents accused him of sexually molesting their son. A decade later, former altar boy Robert
O’Donnell Sr. told Bp. Ryan that Schwellenbach had raped him in the late 1970s. Bishop Ryan
sent Schwellenbach to the diocese of Little Rock in 1988. (Photo: Joseph M. Hanneman)

O'Donnell said Bp. Ryan "told me that Bp. McNicholas knew that Fr. Schwellenbach had molested boys in the previous parish that he was assigned to in Kentucky." According to diocesan records, Schwellenbach took a leave of absence from the Springfield diocese in 1968 and part of 1969. Health reasons were cited. No other details were made public. It's unclear where Schwellenbach was during this time. We contacted the dioceses of Covington, Lexington and Owensboro, and the archdiocese of Louisville, but none had a record of Schwellenbach serving as a priest in Kentucky. The diocese of Springfield would not answer questions regarding Fr. Schwellenbach, his assignments or complaints filed against him.18

Bishop Ryan moved at least two other priests out of the diocese of Springfield after complaints that they sexually abused altar boys. Rev. Garrett Neal Dee, 49, was given a medical leave of absence in 1987 after serving at 10 parishes between 1964 and mid-1987. He went into treatment, then surfaced in 1988 in the diocese of Amarillo, Texas. He resigned as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Groom, Texas, in 2002 when the alleged Illinois abuse came to light. A former altar boy from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Springfield said Dee sexually abused him between 1964 and 1967. The boy was between 11 and 14 years old when the abuse occurred. He said Fr. Dee molested him at movie theaters and in a car in the parking lot behind the church.

Image
Priests G. Neal Dee (left) and Frank D. Westhoff.

"This man came into our house, acted like he really cared about me; what it amounted to was that he cared more about fulfilling his own sexual gratification," the man said in a sworn deposition.19 Father Dee would "come into our home, eat dinner with us, pray with us, ingratiate himself with my mother and father," the man said. His mother was sick with cancer at the time. She died in 1971.

Another man approached RCF in July 2002 to report that he was sexually abused by Fr. Dee in 1978 and 1979, when he was an altar boy at the Church of the Little Flower in Springfield.20 He said Fr. Dee molested him "on numerous occasions" — abuse that he said caused emotional problems that eventually put him in prison. At the time he wrote to RCF, the man was an inmate at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. Brady said he does not know if the man ever filed a formal complaint about Fr. Dee. The diocese of Springfield would not answer questions about Fr. Dee or the letter sent to RCF.21

Bishop Ryan also moved the Rev. Frank D. Westhoff, 52, from St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Granite City, Ill., to Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., in 1986. Westhoff worked in the admissions office at the school.22 After moving for a short time to another seminary in Hales Corners, Wis., Westhoff, known to friends as "Moochie," had a half-dozen assignments at parishes in Missouri between 1987 and 2000.

Westhoff was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old altar boy in the sacristy of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Decatur.

Westhoff was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old altar boy in the sacristy of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Decatur in early June 1966.23 The victim was from a family of six; his parents were married at St. Patrick two decades prior. It's not clear which victim complaint caused Westhoff's initial mid-1980s re-assignment, since the man from St. Patrick didn't report his abuse until August 2002. The man said he signed a settlement agreement with the diocese of Springfield in 2005.24

After Westhoff moved to the diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., he sexually molested a middle-school boy, according to the Rev. Joseph W. Starmann, who said he was contacted by the boy's family for help.25 Rev. Starmann reported the abuse to the Jefferson City diocese in 2006. Westhoff's name appears on the diocese of Jefferson City's list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.26 Westhoff returned to Springfield in 2000 and continued to function as a priest even beyond his official retirement in 2003. Westhoff died in January 2006. Bishop George J. Lucas was the main celebrant at his funeral Mass, held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.27 The diocese of Springfield did not reply to questions about Fr. Westhoff or the complaint that led to his reassignment.28

Image

Msgr. J. Cullen O'Brien

Even though Westhoff was transferred out of St. Patrick in July 1968, the troubles were not over at the Decatur parish. The pastor, Msgr. Joseph Cullen O'Brien, 59, abruptly resigned on Sept. 22, 1976 after the local police chief threatened to arrest him for sexually abusing several boys at St. Patrick.29 Three days later, O'Brien left Decatur just as word spread about his resignation. O'Brien "left Decatur for a short vacation after which he will be reassigned, a parish spokesman said Saturday evening," reported the Decatur Sunday Herald and Review. The departure was for "reasons of health," the paper wrote.30

The altar boy who alleged he was abused by Fr. Westhoff said he encountered Msgr. O'Brien in classes at St. Teresa High School in Decatur. "He spoke to the male students at St. Teresa every year," he said. "He would ask us questions such as whether we had ever had sex with the family dog or our mother."31 O'Brien, he said, "probably had more victims than any other priest in the diocese, by far." O'Brien was later assigned to St. Alexius Catholic Church in Beardstown, Ill., where he died in March 1978. His name appears on the diocese of Springfield's list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, but no other details on Msgr. O'Brien have been released. His obituary made no reference to the more than six years he spent as pastor of St. Patrick's in Decatur.32 The diocese of Springfield would not release more information on Msgr. O'Brien, or reply to questions about the circumstances of his departure from Decatur.33

Weerts Case Recalled

A sexual-abuse case from 1985 raises questions about how much Bp. Ryan cooperated with police when allegations surfaced about one of his priests. The Rev. Walter M. Weerts, 50, pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Liberty and St. Thomas Catholic Church in Camp Point, was indicted by a grand jury in November 1985 for allegedly performing oral sex on three boys, ages 13 to 16. The Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) gathered evidence against Weerts that led him to plead guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. He was sentenced to six years in prison in March 1986.

A DCI supervisor, Steven Crow, said the diocese of Springfield knew about Weerts' predations before police did and should have reported him. "There is no doubt the Church knew about it before we did," Crow said. "By the diocese not coming to us with the problem, they're telling us they want to handle it themselves."34 Crow said when the diocese was first contacted by DCI agents, "they weren't super cooperative."

A report prepared by Adams County prosecutors for Weerts' sentencing said the priest's sexual involvement with boys went back at least 18 years. He was removed from "one or more parishes" because of "relationships with boys," according to Thomas K. Leeper, then Adams County state's attorney.35 The mother of one victim complained about shabby treatment by diocesan officials. "I'm not sure what we've done will change anything within the church," she said.36 The family tried repeatedly to get a meeting with Bp. Ryan when the abuse first came to light. He only agreed after their attorney approached the diocese, she said. 

Image

Father Joseph T. Murray said the homosexual
presence among priests of the diocese was "getting
worse." Bishop Ryan, he said, "knows them all."

More than 30 years later, Leeper said he is still struck by how many priests and nuns came to the sentencing hearing to support Weerts. "I particularly remember at Fr. Weerts's sentencing that the courtroom was literally half full of supporting priests and nuns," Leeper said. "Additionally, Fr. Weerts called as an expert witness a bishop who ran the farm in New Mexico that housed about 100 priest perverts, who testified how they had a program to cure priests with child sexual abuse issues and recommended that the judge place Fr. Weerts in his program." Leeper described the entire case as "sickening."37

When Weerts was nearing his release from prison in 1991, a group of homosexual priests planned a party for him in the diocese, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source learned of the party from the Rev. Joseph T. Murray, then pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Ashland, Ill., and the former diocesan superintendent of schools. Father Murray telephoned the source at the time and said "many priests" were invited to a "large party" for Weerts. Father Murray said the homosexual presence among diocesan priests is "getting worse and this bishop knows them all." 38

A short time after that phone conversation, Fr. Murray, 77, was involved in a car wreck just east of the city of Virginia, Ill. He died six days later at a Springfield hospital. Police said Murray's Ford Taurus left a rural stretch of road, traveled through a yard and hit a corner fence post. A board from the fence flew through the windshield and struck him in the forehead. Police reported the road was "straight, clear and dry" at the time.39 Murray, who was conscious when state police arrived, told a trooper he didn't know what happened. The death was ruled accidental by a coroner's inquest jury.

'A Sin and a Crime'

Was a clear verdict ever delivered on the reign of Bp. Daniel Leo Ryan and his reckless personal conduct? The first hint that the diocese of Springfield publicly acknowledged his record came in November 2003, when it submitted a report on the sexual abuse of minors to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The college was conducting a survey authorized by the U.S. bishops to determine the extent of the clerical sexual-abuse problem in the Catholic Church. The diocese reported there were 43 credible accusations lodged against 14 priests between 1950 and June 2003. The number of credibly accused priests now stands at 21.40

Image

John "Peanut" Rossicoe's written statement to RCF that
he was 15 when he was paid for sex by Bp. Ryan.

The cost in settlements and medical expenses was $2.1 million, the report said (the amount is now more than $6 million). The list included at least one accusation against former Bp. Ryan. However, it appears the diocese did not consider credible the allegations by the underage former teenage male prostitutes. The document claimed there had been no credible reports of abuse of a minor since 1987. This conclusion was reached despite the diocese not interviewing the young men or anyone at RCF, which brought the allegations into the public eye, Brady said. Despite this apparent contradiction, diocesan spokeswoman Kathie Sass claimed allegations of sexual abuse are deemed credible until they are disproved. "When someone cares enough to report it, it generally has really happened," she said in 2003. "Very rarely are allegations not credible."41

Frank R. Bergen testified under oath that he was 15 or 16 when he was first paid for sex by Bp. Ryan. John "Peanut" Rossicoe gave a sworn affidavit that he was 15 when he was paid for sex by "The Bish," as the street people called the prelate. Danny Evans' ex-wife Robin told RCF Bp. Ryan sexually abused Danny when he was an altar boy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.42 These cases were reported publicly by RCF in the mid- to late-1990s. Some of the information was included in the 1999 Matthew McCormick civil suit against Bp. Ryan and the diocese. When added to the case of Frank Sigretto (see "Part Three: 'We are in Schism'"), at least four men alleged they were sexually abused by the bishop as minors. The diocese largely ignored those cases. "We've been very fortunate not to have a huge problem," Sass told the State Journal-Register. "Sexual assault to minors is a sin and a crime."43 

Image

Then-Msgr. Eugene E. Costa propositioned two teen boys
for sex in 2004 and was nearly beaten to death for it.

If the hierarchy of the Catholic Church ever truly saw Bp. Ryan as being involved in sexual crime, it wasn't reflected in public during his lifetime. Twenty years after Bp. Ryan's resignation, the diocese of Springfield website carries a laudatory biography of the prelate with no mention of the sex scandals that plagued his tenure.44 His color photo and biography were prominently displayed for years in the foyer of the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, where Bp. Ryan was ordained in May 1956 and later served as chancellor and auxiliary bishop. Alongside those items was an image of Bp. Ryan's coat of arms and episcopal motto. After a public outcry by advocates for abuse survivors in June 2019, the display was removed.45 The Joliet diocesan website does mention in Bp. Ryan's biography that he was accused of sexual misconduct.46 In April 2006, the diocese of Joliet celebrated Bp. Ryan's 50th anniversary of ordination at the annual Chrism Mass. The honorees that day also included Fr. Salvatore Formusa, who was accused of sexually abusing women and girls as young as 9 in the 1960s and 1970s.47 

In early 2005, Bp. Ryan's successor, Bp. Lucas, appointed a five-member Special Panel on Clergy Misconduct. An investigative report was prepared for the group by William Roberts, former U.S. attorney for central Illinois. The panel was appointed in part as a response to the nearly fatal beating of Msgr. Eugene E. Costa, 53, who served as chancellor under bishops Ryan and Lucas. Costa was attacked on Dec. 21, 2004, after he propositioned two teenage boys for sex at Springfield's Douglas Park, according to police. Wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, Costa was discovered in the fetal position on the ground near his car at 10:30 p.m. Two then-teenage boys were convicted of hitting and kicking Costa in the head more than 20 times.

One of the boys said Costa rubbed up against him and touched his leg after offering him and his friend $50 for sex. When the priest did it a second time, the boys began the beating.48 Costa spent five months in a convalescent center after being discharged from the hospital. The diocese described Costa's behavior as "inappropriate and risky."49 He was removed from ministry and later laicized by Pope Benedict XVI.

In August 2006, the clergy-misconduct panel released a report concluding that Bp. Ryan "engaged in sexual misconduct with adults and used his authority to conceal this misconduct." Despite Bp. Ryan's public denials, the panel wrote, "this behavior did occur and caused scandal in the Church by leading others to do evil."50 The report included no details of Bp. Ryan's misdeeds. There were no incident reports or summaries of any testimony taken by the panel. The investigation did not address the more serious criminal allegations that Bp. Ryan sexually assaulted teenage boys.

Image
Abp. George J. Lucas

Brady said the misconduct panel's report failed to use the words "homosexual" or "sin" in describing Bp. Ryan's behavior. He said the Church should have held a canonical trial in Rome and stripped Ryan of his collar. Bp. Ryan could have been subjected to the Rite of Degradation of a bishop, in which he would have been publicly stripped of his miter, stole, crozier, ring, gloves and shoes. This would be followed by the scraping of hands with a knife or shard of glass to signify removal of the authority to bestow blessings. Bishop Ryan was an early example of how the U.S. bishops exempted themselves from the "one strike and you're out" approach now applied to rank-and-file priests, RCF's Brady said.

"A bishop can abuse a child and be hidden away at some other Catholic institution where he may give retreats, say Mass, or otherwise parade around as a moral leader while being given all the respect the office of bishop affords," Brady said. "The hypocrisy is so obvious. Because of their elite club and lavish lifestyles, the U.S. bishops seem to have lost touch with  reality — to say nothing of their loss of faith." 

Lucas, now archbishop in the archdiocese of Omaha, said he got no cooperation from Bp. Ryan in reining in his behavior. "I wasn't able to discipline him for a couple reasons, because I in some ways didn't have the authority in our structure and then secondly, he didn't want to be disciplined," Lucas said in 2018. "It was a very difficult situation that caused great turmoil within that local church."51

Current Bp. Thomas J. Paprocki also recently acknowledged that Bp. Ryan sexually abused minors during his 15-year reign. "It is a matter of great shame that such terrible sins have been committed by priests of our diocese as well as one of our previous bishops, the late Bp. Daniel Ryan, who resigned in 1999 and died in 2015," Paprocki said.52 "I am deeply concerned for all those who suffered harm as a result of these sins of sexual abuse of minors. I pray for their healing and for God's justice and mercy for the perpetrators of these crimes." 

Next —  Part Five: Common Denominator

Previous —Part Three: We are in Schism


Part Four: End Notes

1 Domestic battery report, Springfield Police Department, File No. S04-63181, July 5, 2004.

2 Hugo conversation with Stephen G. Brady, recounted by Brady in an e-mail exchange with the author on July 10, 2019.

3 Ad Majorem De Gloriam, Roman Catholic Faithful, Petersburg, Ill., Summer 2005 issue, Page 18.

4 Ibid.

5 Interview of neighbor "G.D.," 14— Guemes Court, Springfield, Ill., by Stephen G. Brady, Oct. 7, 2004; recounted in an e-mail to the author on Aug. 23, 2018.

6 Charles Gruber telephone interview, Dec. 14, 2018.

7 Letter from Susan Vahlkamp, freedom of information officer, Quincy Police Department, to the author, June 11, 2019.

8 "Genealogy Bank Obituaries 1980-2014," database with images, GenealogyBank.com, accessed December 14, 2018.

9 "Death Notices," Rev. Arthur Douglas LeBreton, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., Oct. 11, 1986, Page 23.

10 "Disclosure of Specific Cases," promise.Dio.Org, accessed July 22, 2019.

11 The author sent a list of eight questions to the diocesan director of communications regarding this series of articles on Bp. Ryan. He did not reply to any of them, but rather sent a statement saying the result of the diocese's review of its records resulted in creation of the Promise.Dio.org website that deals with the sexual-abuse issue. That website has no information about Fr. Arthur D. LeBreton.

12 Abuse victim Robert O'Donnell Sr. telephone interview with the author, November 2018.

13 Interview with confidential source "KP" by the author, Quincy, Ill., May 6, 2019.

14 "Knights of Columbus Officers," photo and caption, Baxter Bulletin, Mountain Home, Ark., September 9, 1992, Page 10.

15 Robert L. O'Donnell Sr. telephone interview with the author, November 2018.

16 "Washington Trip," e-mail from Robert L. O'Donnell Sr. to Stephen G. Brady, Roman Catholic Faithful, March 8, 2003.

17 "Monsignor DeClerk Honored," caption on a photograph of Bp. Andrew J. McDonald and Msgr. Rainier DeClerk, Baxter Bulletin, Mountain Home, Ark., July 22, 1989, Page 14.

18 The author sent a list of eight questions to the diocesan director of communications regarding this series of articles on Bp. Ryan. He did not reply to any of them, but rather sent a statement saying the result of the diocese's review of its records resulted in creation of the Promise.Dio.org web site that deals with the sexual-abuse issue. That web site lists only Fr. Schwellenbach's name, ordination date and date of death.

19 "Personal Statement," abuse victim "SG," as told to attorney Frederic W. Nessler, Springfield, Ill., Page 4 of 5.

20 Letter from abuse victim "KS" to Stephen G. Brady, Roman Catholic Faithful, Petersburg, Ill., July 22, 2002, contained in the document “FrNealDee,” Page 4 of 5.

21 The author sent a list of eight questions to the diocesan director of communications regarding this series of articles on Bp. Ryan. He did not reply to any of them, but rather sent a statement saying the result of the diocese's review of its records resulted in creation of the Promise.Dio.org website that deals with the sexual-abuse issue. That website lists only Fr. Dee's name, ordination date and his status as of July 31, 2002.

22 "Westhoff, the Rev. Frank," obituary, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., Jan. 9, 2006, Page 23.

23 "Springfield, Illinois Diocese," author name redacted, SNAP Survivors' Network discussion board, Jan. 6, 2004. Accessed online on Oct. 28, 2019.

24 Ibid.

25 Letter from Rev. Joseph W. Starmann, Winfield, Mo., to Sister Ethel-Marie Biri, SSND, diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., March 29, 2006.

26 "Priests and religious brothers credibly accused and/or removed from ministry in the diocese of Jefferson City," diocesan news release, Jefferson City, Mo., Nov. 8, 2018.

27 "Westhoff, the Rev. Frank," obituary, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., Jan. 9, 2006, Page 23.

28 The author sent a list of eight questions to the diocesan director of communications regarding this series of articles on Bp. Ryan. He did not reply to any of them, but rather sent a statement saying the result of the diocese's review of its records resulted in creation of the Promise.Dio.org website that deals with the sexual-abuse issue. That website lists only Fr. Westhoff's name, ordination date and death date.

29 E-mail between sexual abuse victim "MK" and sexual abuse victim "GJ," Sept. 4, 2004; contained in the investigative files of Roman Catholic Faithful, Petersburg, Ill.

30 "Monsignor Resigns from St. Patrick's," Briefly Speaking, Decatur Sunday Herald and Review, Sept. 26, 1976, Page 3.

31 E-mail between sexual abuse victim "MK" and sexual abuse victim "GJ," Sept. 4, 2004; contained in the investigative files of Roman Catholic Faithful, Petersburg, Ill.

32 "Monsignor J. Cullen O'Brien," obituaries, State Journal-Register, March 28, 1978, Page 15.

33 The author sent a list of eight questions to the diocesan director of communications regarding this series of articles on Bp. Ryan. He did not reply to any of them, but rather sent a statement saying the result of the diocese's review of its records resulted in creation of the Promise.Dio.org website that deals with the sexual-abuse issue. That website only lists Msgr. O'Brien's name, ordination date and date of death.

34 "One Case Points to a Greater Tragedy," Joe Stephens, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., January 7, 1986, Page 3.

35 "Diocese Pays Molestation Victims not to File Suit," Joe Stephens, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., October 2, 1987, Page 11.

36 Ibid.

37 E-mail from Thomas Leeper to the author, July 26, 2019.

38 E-mail from confidential source "K.P.," to the author, July 22, 2019.

39 "Priest's Death After Car Crash Ruled Accidental," State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., March 29, 1991, Page 14.

40 "Disclosure of Specific Cases," Promise.Dio.org, accessed Oct. 7, 2019.

41 "14 from Diocese Accused of Abuse in the Last 53 Years," Abbey Brown, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., Nov. 15, 2003, Page 1.

42 Robin Evans verbal testimony in a meeting with Stephen G. Brady, Roman Catholic Faithful, Springfield, Ill., Oct. 4, 1998.

43 Brown, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., Nov. 15, 2003, Page 4.

44 "History of the Diocese of Springfield: Bishop Daniel Ryan (1984–1999)," diocese of Springfield in Illinois website, accessed Oct. 7, 2019.

45 E-mail to the author from Alex Rechenmacher, executive assistant to Joliet Bp. Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Oct. 7, 2019.

46 "Most Rev. Daniel L. Ryan," diocese of Joliet website at DioceseofJoliet.org, accessed July 20, 2019.

47 "Joliet Mass Pays Tribute to 2 Accused Clergymen," Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2006, Section 2, Page 2.

48 "Costa Returning to Springfield Next Week," Sarah Antonacci, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., July 8, 2005, Page 11.

49 Ibid.

50 "Special Panel on Clergy Misconduct," diocese of Springfield in Illinois, August 2006, Page 6.

51 "The Shepherd's Voice" audio podcast, Archdiocese of Omaha, Episode 19: "Facing the Ugliness in the Church," Abp. George J. Lucas and David Hazen, Omaha, Neb., Aug. 24, 2018.

52 "Children are Casualties of Sexual Revolution," video by Bp. Thomas J. Paprocki, diocese of Springfield in Illinois, posted on YouTube.
 

--- Campaign 31877 ---

 

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