Marquette President Fr. Robert Wild Dealt Ineffectively With Chicago Sex Abuse Scandal
Suit Says Jesuits Ignored Warnings About PriestSkipping down in the article:
By ERIK ECKHOLM
Jesuit leaders in Chicago largely ignored or kept secret numerous reports, spanning four decades, that a prominent priest was sexually abusing teenage boys, lawyers for victims charged on Monday in a motion for punitive damages in a Chicago court. Included in the motion were more than 65 recently obtained church documents and depositions that, the lawyers said, demonstrated “a reckless disregard for the safety of others in the face of repeated reports of sexual misconduct” on the part of Chicago Jesuit leaders. The former priest, Donald J. McGuire, now 80, was convicted on several counts of sex abuse in state and federal courts in 2006 and 2008, and is serving a 25-year federal sentence.
On his return from Europe in the 1960s, Father McGuire was assigned to live and teach at Loyola Academy, a high school in Wilmette, Ill. Two boys stayed with him in his room for about two years each, where he constantly abused them, according to the 2006 trial. In 1969 the second of those boys, then 15, ran away and described the abuse to his parish priest, who contacted the Jesuit president of the academy. The school responded by removing Father McGuire, but, according to a letter released on Monday, publicly described his departure as a “sabbatical.” In 1991, in another of the many warnings revealed on Monday, the director of a retreat house in California reported to the Chicago Province’s leader that Father McGuire was traveling with a teenage boy from Alaska and sharing a bed with him, and that the boy’s mother had called to express her concern that “her son has in some way changed.” That year, the Chicago Province’s leader, the Rev. Robert A. Wild, imposed the first set of “guidelines” on Father McGuire. In written instructions he said: “I ask that you not travel on any overnight trip with any boy or girl under the age of 18 and preferably even under the age of 21.” But Father McGuire was left to police himself, and Father Wild said in a 2009 deposition that he had regarded the case as “a serious matter” but also “ambiguous.”Note that Fr. Wild left the post of provincial superior in 1991, so what follows concerns other province officials.
The province sent Father McGuire in 1993 for a psychiatric examination and six months at a treatment center in Maryland — but in the week before he was to report to there, he was allowed to conduct a retreat in Phoenix, where he molested another boy, the documents indicate. As late as 1998, the new documents show, the Chicago provincial wrote a letter of “good standing” for Father McGuire to allow him to minister in a diocese, stating that “there is nothing to our knowledge in his background which would restrict any ministry with minors.” As the reports of abuse accumulated, the Chicago leaders issued one set of restrictions after another on Father McGuire, finally, in 2002, saying he could minister only to nuns in the Chicago region. But none of these directives were enforced, the court motion asserts. Father McGuire was formally removed from the priesthood in February 2008 after a conviction in Wisconsin and after a federal indictment had been issued in Illinois.Wild’s biography on the Marquette website confirms that he was indeed the Jesuit Provincial discussed in the article. The motion filed with the court contains additional information.
It seems that Wild, when McGuire’s behavior was reported to him, merely questioned McGuire, and failed to consult his personnel file -- which would have shown previous instances of questionable behavior (p. 15).
Further, in the 2009 deposition, Wild denied having heard other reports of sexual misconduct regarding McGuire, but the testimony of other witnesses seems to indicate that he had (p. 16).
The motion asserts that “It is simply impossible to reconcile Fr. Wild’s denial of any knowledge regarding McGuire’s history of abuse with the testimony of Brother [Ricardo] Palacio.”
Nothing in the record suggests that Wild had any evil intent. Rather, he comes across as bumbling and ineffective. But of course, that’s the way he has been at Marquette.
Where this scandal is concerned, he looks no worse than many other Catholic clerics. But neither does he look any better, and if he had acted more responsibly many young boys would have avoided being molested.