Accused priests lived at Mundelein seminary near school for 13 years

Priests accused of sexual misconduct against children lived on a Mundelein seminary's grounds for more than a decade, their names unknown to the public until the recent release of previously secret Archdiocese of Chicago documents.

The priests remained at Cardinal Stritch Retreat House seven years after some Lake County authorities initially suggested they should move, in part citing the building's proximity to Carmel Catholic High School. The documents detail measures that were in place to keep tabs on the men at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary off R oute 176.

Just as quietly as the priests arrived at the retreat house in 2000, the last one departed in 2013, the archdiocese has confirmed. The confirmation came after the release of the documents in November by the archdiocese.

Mundelein's former police chief, who worked with the archdiocese to address the situation when the priests' presence became known in 2005, said authorities originally were concerned about them living across the street from Carmel. As part of the fallout, the archdiocese in 2006 banned Carmel students from using the seminary's property for an annual walkathon.

Raymond J. Rose, the retired Mundelein top cop now working as Lake County's undersheriff, said safeguards he and others pushed for led authorities to conclude it was safest for the community to have the priests clustered in one building.

And Rose said the church complied with demands to give Mundelein police the names, photographs and other information about the priests at the retreat house.

However, outside visitors who made day and overnight trips to the retreat home were not informed, he said.

Rose said the plan called for the priests to gradually leave Stritch. Some of them died, while others were laicized or moved to medical facilities, documents show.

“It was our obligation to make sure the community was safe,” Rose said.

Although the priests were allowed to come and go, documents show they had to fill out a daily log of their whereabouts as part of protocols established for oversight and compliance. An adult monitor was assigned to them, and they also had to complete out-of-town travel and vacation notification forms.

Rose said that while the priests didn't cause problems in the Mundelein area, not everything ran smoothly with the arrangement.

“One of them left and he was (living) in Grayslake,” he said. “Nobody (initially) knew where he was.”

Barbara Blaine, a longtime critic of how the archdiocese has handled child sexual abuse claims against priests, questions whether the fallen clerics' peers provided “real supervision” at Stritch.

“That's why civilized societies imprison (predators), because that's the only real way to protect vulnerable children,” said Blaine, who founded Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said church leaders no longer will send priests to live at Stritch if there is evidence of child molestation. Instead, she said, the church will contact law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution.

Dolan stressed that the priests in Mundelein were watched, which she said may not be the case with other sex offenders convicted in a criminal court.

“At least everybody knew where these guys were and we monitored them,” Dolan said.

Mundelein police said they learned after the fact the accused priests had started living at the retreat house in 2000. The archdiocese did not publicly announce their presence until late 2005. In 2006, church officials acknowledged as many as 12 fallen priests were at Stritch.

Rose said he and then Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller reacted with concern because it appeared the men were breaking the law by not registering as sex offenders. He said safeguards were enacted after the archdiocese said only one of the men, the Rev. Ralph Strand, was convicted of sexual abuse in a criminal court. He went to prison in 1995 for molesting an altar boy at St. Mary Catholic Church in Des Plaines.

Strand, who died in 2013, was the only priest at Stritch in the Mundelein police sex offender registry available to the public. The names of the other priests living at Stritch were unknown to the public.

But the archdiocese's previously secret documents provide the names of nine other accused priests who were removed from public ministry and lived on the seminary grounds from 2000 to 2013. Church officials said there were substantiated accusations of sexual abuse against children involving each of those priests.

They included:

• John A. Robinson, a former associate pastor at Queen of the Rosary Parish in Elk Grove Village who was accused of molesting a boy when he served at another church. Documents show a complaint that Robinson sexually abused the boy was made with the archdiocese in October 2002. Robinson was accused of molesting the 14-year-old in the 1970s while serving as associate pastor at St. Priscilla Parish in Chicago. He was Queen of the Rosary's associate pastor from 1994 to 2003.

Robinson's desire to use a Mundelein Park District facility for exercise was addressed in a 2007 internal memo sent to him by the retreat house's former director, Richard F. Hudzik. Robinson was encouraged to use Advocate Condell Medical Center's health club in Libertyville or another gym instead.

Hudzik wrote there was concern “some malicious gossip might seek to embarrass (Robinson) or the archdiocese showing 'that removed priest' going to a park district facility, which is adjacent to an outdoor swimming pool open to children.”

• Recently deceased Walter E. Huppenbauer, pastor of St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Church in Palatine from 1984 to 1994. He was formally terminated from the ministry for what church officials said were substantiated accusations he abused a girl while an associate priest at St. Hilary Parish in Chicago in the 1960s.

• James Ray, who the archdiocese announced in 2002 was under investigation for sexual misconduct while associate pastor at St. Peter Damian Parish in Bartlett from 1982 to 1989.

Ray was associate pastor at Transfiguration Parish in Wauconda from 1989 to 1991. The onetime secret files on Ray show the most recent claim about him molesting a boy was received by the archdiocese in January 2013, and alleged the abuse occurred while he was at Transfiguration.

Documents don't indicate exactly when Robinson, Huppenbauer or Ray left Stritch.

Checking on priests, employees and volunteers

Distrust of church's process persists

How the archdiocese is working to prevent abuse

  Carmel High School students participate in the school's annual fundraising walk through Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in 2005. The archdiocese cited the possibility of unwelcome scrutiny for Carmel when it banned students from using the seminary property in 2006. Paul Valade/, 2005
  Priests accused of molesting children quietly moved into the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House off Route 176 in Mundelein in 2000. The Archdiocese of Chicago did not announce their presence until 2005, and their names were not revealed until late last year. Paul Valade/
Walter E. Huppenbauer
Ralph Strand
John A. Robinson
James Ray

Timeline of Archdiocese of Chicago's response to sex abuse

To date, archdiocese officials say they have substantiated 352 abuse cases relating to 66 priests since 1952 (not including the Rev. Daniel McCormack or the Rev. Edward Maloney*), and paid out $130 million in settlements with victims.

1992: Commission appointed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin recommends reforms in the way the archdiocese handles allegations of sex abuse. Review board and assistance ministry established.

2002: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopts zero tolerance standard, requiring priests to be removed if an allegation of sex abuse is substantiated against them. Before, some priests were allowed to stay in limited ministry.

2003: Office for the Protection of Children and Youth established.

2006: McCormack arrested on multiple counts of criminal sexual abuse. He pleads guilty the following year and is sentenced to five years in prison.

January 2014: Archdiocese releases more than 6,000 pages of documents detailing instances of child sex abuse by 30 priests.

November 2014: Archdiocese releases 15,000 pages of documents involving 36 priests.

*Archdiocese officials say they plan to release files on McCormack and Maloney once their respective trials — for McCormack, a civil trial, and for Maloney, a canonical trial — are complete.

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