Group Seeks More Details about Misconduct in Springfield Diocese

By Kevin McDermott
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Springfield Ill]
August 3, 2006

A St. Louis-based watchdog group is pressing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield to reveal more details about an internal investigation that found new cases of sexual and financial misconduct in the church.

"We like the fact that they have admitted this. It's a start," said Judy Jones of St. Louis, a member of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, at a news conference in front of the Springfield Diocese headquarters on Thursday. "We want to know what else they're going to do."

Specifically, the group wants names and details regarding several priests who, the church says, were found to have engaged in noncriminal sexual or financial misconduct.

On Wednesday, the diocese released an internal investigation that concluded that there had been a "culture of secrecy" that had spawned distrust in the diocese, which encompasses 28 south-central Illinois counties, including Madison, Jersey, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Bond and Calhoun.

While acknowledging those findings, Bishop George J. Lucas has declined to name those priests whose identities haven't previously been publicized. Lucas and others argue that such withholding of information is justified because the issues in the report were noncriminal matters, such as priests' sexual contact with adults.

But Jones argued that withholding information about even noncriminal misconduct fostered an atmosphere of secrecy that produced a danger of child abuse and other crimes.

Continuing to withhold information about the finding, Jones argued, produces the impression that "they care more about the good of the church than they do about anybody who has been harmed, whether it be children or vulnerable adults."

Lucas ordered the internal investigation last year, after a priest in the diocese, the Rev. Eugene Costa, was severely beaten in a park in Springfield after allegedly approaching two young men for sex.

That was the latest incident to sully the diocese's public image in recent years, after former Bishop Daniel Ryan retired in 1999 amid rumors that he personally engaged in homosexual relationships and covered up for other priests in the diocese who abused children.

The internal investigation - which blamed Ryan for much of the diocese's image problem - was turned over to a panel of five volunteers who compiled a report and made recommendations.

One of the panel members, state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, defended the diocese's handling of the issue and questioned why a St. Louis-based group focused on criminal child abuse was concerned about noncriminal misconduct in an Illinois diocese.

"It's been an open, transparent process. (Lucas) is trying to clean it up," Haine said Thursday.

Diocesan spokeswoman Kathie Sass said the diocese had no plans to release additional information from the investigation.

Illinois diocese cited in own report


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