Eight Priests Connected to Local Area Named in IL Attorney General Report on Child Sex Abuse in IL Catholic Churches

By Benjamin Cox on May 23, 2023 at 8:03pm

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul today released a comprehensive report detailing decades of child sex abuse by members of the clergy in Illinois’ Catholic churches.

The report concludes a 4 1/2-year long investigation into child sex abuse by members of the clergy in all 6 Catholic diocese in the state. Raoul’s detailed report reveals names and detailed information on 451 clerics and religious brothers who abused nearly 2,000 children dating back to at least the 1940s.

Raoul says this investigation was very personal to him as his mother was a devout Catholic and he is a confirmed Catholic and has sent his children to Catholic school for a number of years.

The nearly 700-page report features detailed narrative accounts of child sex abuse allegedly committed by Catholic clerics. Many of the narratives were written in consultation with survivors, are based upon their experiences. Although the report formally concludes the investigation the Attorney General’s office opened in 2018 started by former Attorney General Lisa Madigan, it contains 50 pages of the office’s recommendations to the dioceses for the handling of future child sex abuse allegations.

The report contains 3 names that had child sex abuse allegations that are alleged to have occurred in this area while the named priests served in West Central Illinois parishes:
1. Robert DeGrand is alleged to have 1 survivor of abuse that occurred at Our Saviour’s in Jacksonville between 1981 and 1984. DeGrand was permanently removed from the pulpit in 2015. DeGrand also served at St. Mark’s in Winchester and St. Patrick’s in Bluffs from 1987-1991.

2. Michael Driscoll is alleged to have 1 survivor of abused that occurred at Our Saviour’s in Jacksonville between 1966-67. Driscoll served at Our Saviour parish from 1960 until the time of his death in 1989.

3. James Patrick O’Hara is alleged to have 1 survivor of abuse that occurred while he served at St. Mark’s in Winchester in 1963. O’Hara retired from service in 1977 and died in 1987.

The following other names with local connections were included in the report but had no reported abuse in the local area:
1. Alvin Campbell (Our Saviour’s 1960-63)
2. Joseph Cernich (Our Saviour’s 1984)
3. Eugene Costa (1976 at St. Luke’s in Virginia, IL; St. Basil’s in Chandlerville; and St. Fidelis in Arenzville)
4. Robert Eager (1935-1951 at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Alexander)
5. Ray Franzen (1942-1949 at Our Saviour’s)
6. George Kromenaker (1947, 1949-1952 at Our Saviour’s and 1966 at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
7. Joseph Cullen O’Brien (1977-1978 at St. Fidelis in Arenzville and St. Alexius in Beardstown)
8. Frank Westhoff (1976-1984 at St. Mary’s in Pittsfield, Holy Redeemer in Barry, and Holy Family in Griggsville)

Before Raoul’s investigation, the Catholic dioceses of Illinois publicly listed only 103 substantiated child sex abusers, compared to the now over 400 names in this report. The report also levies heavy allegations against the Springfield Diocese in their handling of claims alleging decades of failed leadership by bishops over the past five decades. It takes specific aim at Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s handling of recent revelations of the abuse over the decades and his inability to reconcile with survivors who have come forward in recent years.

The report took direct umbrage with a statement released by Bishop Paprocki released in December 2018 after the release by the local diocese of names with claims of abuse. Paprocki wrote in the December 19, 2018 that “[r]eviewing these past cases [of child sex abuse] has also reminded us that many years ago people didn’t publicly discuss the kind of salacious allegations documented in these files.” Bishop Paprocki continued—“A virtuous intent to protect the faithful from scandal unfortunately prevented the transparency and awareness that has helped us confront this problem more directly over the past
fifteen years.”

The report released blasts the Springfield Diocese for not publicly disclosing a list of clerics who
ministered within the diocese and who had been substantiated as child sex abusers to its parishioners. The report says that the diocese placed such a list on a webpage only after being pushed to do so by the Attorney General Office, making it the last diocese in Illinois to take the measure. Further, the report says that the Springfield Diocese then made the list that was published difficult to find before Bishop Paprocki finally ordered its publication directly on the Diocese’s website in September 2022. Despite the move, the report says that he diocese’s list of substantiated child sex abusers does not include each cleric’s parish assignments— making it the only Illinois diocese to omit such vital information for diocesan clerics. The report blasted that practice for its lack of transparency and accuses the Springfield Diocese for not being able to “reconcile itself with its past.” The report also detailed two survivors experiences of trying to reconcile that past by seeking out Paprocki. The detailed account of the conversations and interactions between the Springfield Diocese and the survivors placed in the report recalls the two survivors being questioned on their faith, dismissed, or ignored.

Paprocki and the Springfield Diocese released the following statement today in the wake of the report:

“The Attorney General’s inquiry into the history of clergy sexual abuse of minors in this diocese has served as a reminder that some clergy in the Church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victim survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone. As bishop of this diocese, I cannot undo the damages of the past, but I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening again. The changes our diocese enacted have proven to be effective as we are not aware of a single incident of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy alleged to have occurred in this diocese in nearly 20 years.

“As difficult as this process has been for all involved, especially the victim survivors, we credit the Attorney General’s office for bringing about greater transparency, and, especially for keeping the spotlight on this issue to help us sustain the vigilance with which we guard against any future threat of abuse. We hope the Attorney General’s office continues this vigilance for creating a safer environment with other institutions, and it doesn’t stop with just the Catholic Church.

“We stand with the other five dioceses in Illinois in the commitments to accountability, transparency, reform, and sustained vigilance. Like the other five dioceses, we report allegations to civil authorities and encourage victim survivors to do the same, and we have a victim assistance ministry and special offices to handle childhood sexual abuse allegations. Our Review Board includes lay professionals with backgrounds in areas such as law enforcement, education, psychology, and medicine. They review and make recommendations to me regarding the withdrawal of clergy. We also conduct robust safe environment abuse prevention programs, which includes background checks for everyone who works and volunteers in the Church. We have also listed all substantiated cases of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy in this diocese on a public website, dio.org/promise.

“Our diocese has a Victim Assistance Coordinator ready to help anyone who has been victimized. I pledge to support victim survivors in any way we can and to sustain vigilance and take all the appropriate measures to prevent any future recurrence.”

The press release also included links to the policies for education, prevention, assistance, and determination for fitness for ministry regarding clerical sexual abuse of a minor on the Springfield Diocese website.

The Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) also released a statement today in the wake of the report’s release:
“On Friday afternoon, all six of Illinois’ Catholic dioceses sent out a sudden press statement, written in concert, that describes the policies and procedures each institution has in place to protect children from abuse. With today’s news, we now know why those Church leaders felt the need to remind parents and parishioners about these policies – because thanks to the work of the investigators at the Illinois Attorney General’s office, it is now apparent to us that those policies are weak, vague, and rarely followed.

“These numbers are at once staggering and, unfortunately, likely an under count.

“For many survivors, secular investigations like this will open an area for new conversations, healing among fellow victims, and assisting communities to comprehend the horrors of their past and the risk of their present. When the legal system fails to provide victims with justice, statewide investigations can assist citizens and survivors in communicating essential facts about the global scourge of child sexual abuse.

“Because of this, we are grateful to the dedicated investigators from the A.G. office who spoke for thousands of hours to hundreds of survivors, making sure their experiences as victims of Church-sponsored abuse and cover-up were adequately represented. We are especially grateful to those survivors, without whom no report would ever have been released and Catholic leaders would continue to misrepresent the number of abusers to whom Illinois children were exposed.

 “And let us be clear, in our view the bishops lied. There is no questioning the facts of the report – until 2018 when the investigation began, hierarchs in every Illinois diocese kept known abusers under wraps, declined to include them on their accused lists, and refused to acknowledge the truth that survivors of abuse who came forward to make a report shared with them. It is to us, in a word, disgusting that these supposed shepherds would lie so blatantly. It is, in a word, arrogant that they believed their lies would somehow remain secret even in the face of a secular investigation. We are grateful that their disgusting arrogance has now been publicly exposed.

“The stories from survivors contained within this report are harrowing to read, and while each story is unique in its own terrible way, they are also alike in key areas. First, almost all of these survivors were ignored by the Catholic leaders to whom they reported. In nearly every case, Church officials chose to accept the words of abusers and the recommendations of other trash-passing bishops that it was the priest who was innocent, not the victimized child. Second, Catholic leaders artfully and purposefully utilized the statute of limitations to ensure that the criminals they hired, trained, and ordained could not be brought to justice. Third, they deceived the parishioners in their pews, telling them that they had cleaned up their act while they were still quietly transferring abusers from parish to parish, giving them new hunting grounds.

“According to the report, a remarkable number of children in Illinois were actively put in danger and exposed to abusers by the named bishops. It enrages us that most of these men cannot be brought to justice due to archaic and predator-friendly statutes of limitations. So instead, we call for Illinoisans to join us in demanding public rebuke and recrimination.

“Any building that bears the name of any of these men, or the officials who enabled them, should be renamed. Any mention of them should not be done in an honorable way, but in a cautionary way that demonstrates the danger of arrogance and self-policing. Catholic schools across the state are named for many of these bishops. Instead of placards joyfully talking about their titles, they should be replaced with memorials to survivors and apologies for the cover-ups committed by their namesakes.

“But beyond removing honors for abusers and enablers, we must come together to provide justice and healing for survivors and true prevention for children today and into the future. A key barrier to all three of these things is the statute of limitations. We are grateful that Illinois removed criminal SOL several years ago, and we believe the next most important step is the opening of a civil window that would allow expired and time-barred claims to be heard in a court of law. States like New York and California have enacted such laws and the result has been healing for survivors, important information for parents, and valuable lessons for institutions. We recognize that there is a constitutional barrier to such a window in Illinois, but also believe that now is the time to remove that barrier. Survivors deserve justice, children deserve protection, and abusers and enablers deserve to be held accountable.

“The sad fact that we have learned from this and other reports is this: we believe that any law enforcement agency investigating nearly any Catholic diocese in the United States would find precisely the same level of criminal behavior by clerics, and the same level of cover-up by Church officials. We truly hope that more attorneys general and local prosecutors across the country will have the guts to dig deeper and investigate Catholic dioceses and institutions in their locale.”

The AG’s full report can be found here. Warning: The report contains detailed descriptions of child sex abuse, assault, and trauma. Resources for survivors of child sex abuse can also be found in Attorney General Raoul’s report as well as at the Illinois Attorney General’s website.