DCFS ends investigation into Maryville's Smyth; archdiocese set to resume inquiry

Archdiocese set to resume probe of allegations late priest had molested teenagers at Maryville

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has formally closed its investigation into former Maryville Academy leader the Rev. John Smyth.

Now the Archdiocese of Chicago is expected to reopen its internal probe into sex abuse claims against the priest, who died earlier this year.

DCFS began its inquiry after the archdiocese provided notification that two men alleged Smyth molested them in the early 2000s when they were 13 and 14 years old. The archdiocese made those accusations public in January.

Under DCFS policy, the agency looks into whether someone accused of abuse at any time in the past may be a risk to children today. The probe didn't specifically examine the accusations made by the two men.

"Reports of prior abuse from adults plays an important role in determining if an alleged perpetrator is still a risk to children today. The mission of DCFS is to keep children safe today," said DCFS spokeswoman Deborah Lopez. "In the investigation of Father Smyth, his hospitalization and death means he would no longer pose a potential risk to children."

Under that protocol, the DCFS investigation was closed and allegations determined to be "unfounded," Lopez said.

The archdiocese's Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review temporarily halted its investigation after notifying DCFS, but it will resume the internal probe after receiving a report from the state agency, archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli said.

Smyth, the prominent Chicago-area priest and one-time leader of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, died in April at age 84.

Attorney Jeanine Stevens, who represents the two initial accusers, said she would help coordinate interviews with archdiocese officials as part of their investigation. She said she is also representing additional accusers who have contacted her.

Any potential litigation involving the church is "still on the table," she said.

Smyth's attorney, Frank DiFranco, has maintained the accusations are false and an attempt to extort money from the archdiocese.

"I'm confident the archdiocese will come out and say these allegations were outright lies," DiFranco said.

Smyth continued living on the Des Plaines campus of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe next to Maryville after his departure as academy superintendent in 2003.

The archdiocese asked him to move from the campus while the allegations were investigated.

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