Chicago Priest Under Sex Abuse Investigation Goes AWOL

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by Anita Carey  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 31, 2018   

Fr. Richard McGrath is accused of homosexual rape and possession of child porn

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CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic priest has fled from his order in Chicago amid a criminal investigation into homosexual rape and possesion of male child porn. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Fr. Richard McGrath has fled from the Augustian facility where he was ordered to stay under supervision.

Fr. Richie Mercado, secretary of the Augustinians' Midwest province, said McGrath "is unlawfully absent from the community." As a result of his absence, McGrath's faculties as a priest have been suspended and he is no longer allowed to represent the Augustinians.  

The scandal forced McGrath to abruptly retire from Providence Catholic High School.

The troubles for Fr. Richard McGrath began in December 2017, when a student at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox reported to police that she saw McGrath, then-president of the school, allegedly looking at an image of a naked boy on his phone while at a school wrestling match. 

The criminal investigation stalled when McGrath refused to hand his phone over to police or his religious superiors. The scandal forced McGrath to abruptly retire from Providence Catholic High School run by the Midwest Augustinians, where McGrath is a member. 

A short while later, police began investigating allegations that McGrath raped a former student at the school, Robert Krankvich.  

After McGrath retired from Providence Catholic High School, the Augustinians moved him to St. John Stone Friary on the South Side of Chicago, in close proximity to a preschool and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic grade school.

Neither school received a notice from the archdiocese of Chicago or the Augustinians about McGrath living in the area.

In September, after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Cdl. Cupich failed to notify the schools of the accused priest's presence, the archdiocese sent a letter of apology "for the distress this situation has caused" and explained that McGrath would be moving from the friary immediately. 

Despite the widely publicized news, Cdl. Cupich maintains the archdiocese of Chicago was unaware of the priest's history. In a statement to the school, released the day the Chicago Sun-Times piece ran, Cdl. Cupich tried to blame his lack of knowledge on the Augustinian order, claiming the order had only said that McGrath "had 'inappropriate material' on his mobile phone and had completed safe-environment training" and "said nothing of an allegation of sexual abuse against him." 

Despite the widely publicized news, Cdl. Cupich maintains the archdiocese of Chicago was unaware of the priest's history.

Cardinal Cupich maintained, "Had they fully informed us of his status, we would not have permitted him to live there." There was no mention as to where McGrath would be moving.

We will conduct an additional review of all religious communities in Chicago with regard to their members residing in our diocese," the cardinal added. 

Earlier this year, Krankvich filed a lawsuit against the Augustinian Order and Providence High School alleging McGrath abused and raped him multiple times between 1995 and 1996 when he was 13–15 years old. A judge dismissed the lawsuit on a technicality, but it is expected attorneys will refile it. 
 
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit in April, Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys representing Krankvich, said he had alerted New Lenox police in January after the news of McGrath's retirement and scandal broke.
 
Krankvich said after seeing the report on allegations against McGrath for possession of child porn, the guilt Krankvich experienceed for not coming forward six years earlier left him sobbing. He claims the abuse led to a drug addiction and he wasn't strong enough to go public with his abuse at that time. 
 
"How many other people have been hurt by this predator?" he asked. 

After the priest's lawyer claimed the phone holding alleged evidence of child porn might no longer exist, Anderson blasted McGrath, saying, "He destroyed the evidence of the possession of child pornographic images." 

The lawsuit also alleges they have information that McGrath has sexually abused other children. Anderson said this case is about "a bigger problem than just this rapist." He wants the Augustinians to "come clean and release its list of accused offenders." 

Anderson has brought legal action against the Augustinians before and criticized them for hiding behind statutes of limitations, accusing them of using them "as a shield and a sword."

McGrath, the Augustians and Providence Catholic High School are no strangers to controversy. In March 2001, The Chicago Tribune reported that Br. John E. Newton, a theology instructor and assistant wrestling coach, died in his room from smoke inhalation from a small fire presumably from a cigarette Newton was smoking.

report by John Ferak for New Lenox Patch notes that Newton's death raised several questions, from the lack of substantial fire damage to the failure of the smoke detectors. "People also noticed how McGrath took charge of the situation and the case faded from the spotlight," Ferak wrote.   

Speaking anonymously to the Patch, a source claimed that he knew of inappropriate conduct by Newton with some of the wrestling athletes at the school. Newton allegedly undressed in front of these boys and encouraged them to do the same and join him in a hot tub. 

"The story about Br. John's death from cigarette smoke, it didn't smell right from the beginning and just left a bad taste in your mouth," the source said. "To me, listening to Proidence's PR, it called into question just what they had to say regarding issues like that to the public." 

Church Militant reached out to the archdiocese of Chicago, the diocese of Joliet and the Augustinians but have not heard back by press time. 

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