SNAP wants ex-priest fired from Des Plaines facility

A victims' advocacy group is calling for an ex-priest accused of sexual misconduct to be removed from his job at Des Plaines health facility where he counsels people struggling with depression, substance abuse, family problems and stress.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has submitted letters to the Archdiocese of Chicago and Advocate Health Care demanding Russell Lawrence Romano, a counselor in Advocate's Illinois Professional Health Program, be fired.

Romano is accused of molesting at least five boys and is listed on the archdiocese's website as a cleric with “substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.”

He was never criminally charged and left the priesthood in 1991.

“He is working in a position where he ... is providing counseling for people dealing with addictions,” said Barbara Blaine, SNAP spokeswoman, who added that Romano does not belong in a job where he has access to children.

Blaine added SNAP also is concerned that Romano would be counseling alcoholics, since one of the allegations against Romano is he gave alcohol to boys he is accused of abusing.

Advocate spokeswoman Kelly Jo Golson confirmed in an emailed statement that Romano is a counselor for Advocate, but added, “He has no contact with children.”

“The majority of his role is performed telephonically,” she added.

Advocate is in the process of “completing a thorough and deliberate investigation of the matter,” she wrote. “The safety of our patients, associates and all those we serve is of the utmost importance to us.”

Golson did not say if Advocate knew of Romano's past when it hired him.

Romano, meanwhile, said Tuesday he is aware of SNAP's attempt to get him fired and that there is an ongoing administrative inquiry. He declined further comment.

Blaine said the Archdiocese of Chicago has a responsibility that goes beyond stripping accused clerics of priesthood to ensure, “people like Romano don't get positions where they have a position of authority over people.”

In a statement issued late last week, the Archdiocese of Chicago denied it kept the allegations against Romano hidden from authorities.

“When the first allegation was received against him in 1986, the civil authorities were informed and he was placed on limited ministry with restrictions and monitoring, according to the regulations in effect at that time,” the statement read.

Romano, who was ordained in May 1973, resigned the priesthood in October 1991 and was laicized in May 2009, according to the archdiocese.

“Romano's current employment had not been known to the archdiocese, but, after learning about his current profession from his accuser in April of 2011, the archdiocese promptly forwarded this information to the state's attorney and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services,” the statement read.

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