Probe Finds Misdeeds at Springfield Diocese

The Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat
August 3, 2006

Springfield - An investigative committee said Wednesday it found some "serious misconduct" by a few priests within the Springfield Catholic Diocese that includes Madison County but no criminal activity after an 18-month probe.

The five-member panel of church members and the former federal prosecutor who headed the group's investigation released its findings and recommendations for preventing future problems at a news conference.

The problems centered around former diocese Bishop Daniel Ryan, who the probe found engaged in improper sexual conduct and used his position to hide that behavior.

The committee also discovered evidence of financial mismanagement and inappropriate use of church computers. Church officials are seeking severe punishment of one former priest and investigating two others for misconduct, but stressed none of the wrongdoing involves abuse of minors.

"I'm deeply sorry for the misdeeds of any priest whom I have placed in or allowed to remain in a position of trust in this diocese," Bishop George Lucas said.

Committee member and state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the congregation should have more confidence in its leadership.

"There's been a change, a substantive change, in the way this diocese operates at the top, and the vast majority of priests are doing an exemplary job," Haine said. "They were as much in the wilderness in the Ryan years as we were and the laity was."

Lucas, who heads the 28-county diocese covering central and part of southern Illinois, ordered the probe in February 2005 after the beating of the Rev. Eugene Costa two months earlier by two teens in a Springfield park.

The panel said the teens alleged Costa had propositioned them for sex. Costa subsequently resigned and spent more than five months at an out-of-state rehabilitation center. Lucas said Wednesday he is pushing for the church to permanently bar Costa from future ministry.

The committee said Ryan's behavior, which he denies, caused scandal in the church and even prompted some members to abandon the faith.

Stephen Brady, president of Petersburg-based conservative group Roman Catholic Faithful, said his group had uncovered most of these findings years ago. He said some of the committee's recommendations were good but was disappointed it didn't dig deeper and uncover more problems.


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