Attorney: Former Maryville leader 'adamantly denies' sex abuse claims

The attorney for the former Maryville Academy leader now facing sexual abuse accusations is sharply disputing the claims against the Rev. John P. Smyth.

Smyth, 84, is facing accusations dating to 2002-2003, during the end of his tenure at Maryville in Des Plaines. Two now-adult men accuse Smyth of molesting them when they were 13 and 14 years old and were residing, at a judge's orders, in Maryville's Scott Nolan Center, according to their attorney, Jeanine Stevens.

But on Saturday, Smyth's attorney, Frank DiFranco, said the claims are "absurd" and called them an "outrageous" attempt to damage the reputation of his client.

"He adamantly denies them and is obviously very upset at the false allegations," DiFranco said about Smyth, who is living in a rehabilitation facility after a surgery. "They are just plain lies."

Stevens said one of the accusers came forward shortly after the molestation occurred, but no one believed him or took any action. DiFranco disputes that as well.

As residents in the Nolan Center, which DiFranco described as "a detention center," DiFranco said the boys were not free to move about the Maryville campus. He said the academy had a policy prohibiting any adult from being alone in a room with a child, which would have made it impossible for Smyth to commit the acts of which he is accused and would have made the accusations easy to discredit if they had been brought forward at the time.

"There was no opportunity whatsoever for him to be alone with them in his office, as the claim was made," DiFranco said.

Once the Archdiocese of Chicago received the allegations against Smyth, officials said, the claims were reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state's attorney's office, in accordance with the archdiocese's child protection policies.

According to the archdiocese's statement, Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Smyth to step aside from ministry and Smyth's faculties to minister in the archdiocese have been withdrawn. He was also asked to give up his residence at Maryville while the claims are investigated.

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