Probe of Diocese Concludes
Panel's Results to Be Announced Today
By Dave Bakke
State-Journal Register [Springfield IL]
August 2, 2006
Bishop George Lucas and Springfield attorney Bill Roberts will hold a news conference this afternoon to discuss the long-awaited results of an 18-month investigation into allegations of clergy misconduct in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
A press release issued Tuesday by the diocese stated: "Results of the investigation have been turned over to a panel composed of volunteers representing a cross-section of community leadership. The panel has now completed its report and will announce the results of their work, along with their recommendations ...."
Diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Sass said she could make no other comment regarding the substance of today's news conference.
The investigation was launched Feb. 17, 2005, in the aftermath of the beating of Monsignor Eugene Costa, then chancellor of the diocese and pastor of two Springfield-area parishes.
Costa was severely beaten by two young men in Douglas Park around Christmas 2004.
He subsequently resigned from active ministry and underwent therapy and rehabilitation at an undisclosed location. He has since returned to Springfield but remains out of active ministry.
A number of changes were made to diocesan leadership after the Costa incident. Monsignor John Renken was replaced as vicar general and as moderator of canonical and civil affairs, though he remains director of the diocese's permanent diaconate program and pastor at St. James Parish in Riverton.
Monsignor Carl Kemme assumed Renken's former duties as moderator of the curia, meaning he oversees day-to-day operations of the diocese and its employees. Kemme also succeeded Costa as chancellor.
Another diocesan priest, Monsignor Kenneth Steffen, Renken's co-pastor at St. James Church in Riverton and St. Katherine Drexel Church in Springfield, is on an indefinite leave of absence. An announcement read at his parishes in mid-February 2005 said Steffen left to receive physical, emotional and holistic healing.
Steffen and Renken at one time were diocesan judges who decided on annulment requests.
The five members of the panel chosen by Lucas to review Roberts' findings are:
• Carolyn Graham, longtime member of Springfield's Blessed Sacrament Parish.
• State Sen. William Haine, former Madison County state's attorney.
• The Rev. Kurt Hartrich, a Franciscan priest from Quincy.
• Sgt. Robert Sgambelluri, a state law enforcement investigator specializing in domestic violence.
• Sister Joan Winkler, provincial superior of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and chairwoman of the Board of Trustees for Hospital Sisters Health System governing 13 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Roberts is a former U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois. In order to assist people in contacting him and his investigators with any complaints, the diocese set up a toll-free number, (866) 346-2003, and an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Bakke can be reached at 788-1541 or email@example.com.
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