Archdiocese knew of pedophile priests who served in Oak Park

Priests who served at St. Catherine were allowed to continue ministry

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

New light was shed this week on 30 Chicago-area priests accused, and in some cases convicted, of the sexual abuse of minors. Three of them served at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Oak Park during the 1960s and '70s.

Documents released by victims' lawyers reveal that the Archdiocese of Chicago knew of sexual abuse perpetrated by Rev. James Craig Hagan, Robert E. Mayer and John W. Curran, who served at St. Catherine.

According to documents released by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, known abuse by Mayer and Hagan took place after they served as associate pastors at St. Catherine in 1964 and 1974, respectively. A timeline released by the law firm, however, shows four incidents of abuse by Curran between June 1966 and April 1970 at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South in Chicago and St. Albert the Great in Burbank, while he served as assistant pastor at St. Catherine.

Mayer was convicted of felony child sex abuse in 1992 and sentenced to three years in prison, but both Hagan and Curran escaped prosecution.

The documents show the Chicago Archdiocese allowed all three priests to continue their ministry despite the known threat they posed to minors.

Robert E. Mayer

A record of abuse perpetrated by Mayer began in 1974, 10 years after serving in Oak Park. Newly released documents show that the problems with Mayer were reported to the Clergy Personnel Board in 1977.

"Instead of removing Mayer and calling the police when the first allegations were known, the Archdiocese told Mayer to resign from his parish 'for other reasons' and was assigned elsewhere," according to a summary of events released by Anderson & Associates. "Mayer was finally removed from ministry in 1991, after a local television station received an anonymous tip, and six years after a civil sex abuse settlement involving one of Mayer's victims."

James Craig Hagan

In 1981, seven years after serving at St. Catherine, Hagan was accused of sexually abusing four minors while serving as an associate pastor at St. Richard in Chicago.

Allegations of abuse continued through the 1980s, and in 1991 he was assured by Rev. Patrick O'Malley, vicar of priests, that he would not be included in an Archdiocesan review of sexual abuse by priests.

"I want to set your mind at ease a bit," O'Malley told Hagan in a letter. "You undoubtedly know that the Cardinal recently appointed a commission to review all cases of alleged or real child abuse in our archdiocesan records. We presented to the commission every case that has come to our attention in the past 30 years."

O'Malley goes on to note that one of the cases involved Hagan from May of 1988.

"When presented with the facts, the commission agreed with our assessment and our handling of the incident," O'Malley wrote. "They also agreed that there was no need for action at this time. As far as they were concerned, the incident is closed."

He added, "Not to worry. We can put it away for good now."

Hagan resigned in 1997.

Cardinal Francis George launched an additional investigation of Hagan in April 2007, and under deposition later that year, Bishop Raymond Goedert said that despite credible allegations of sexual abuse in 1988, Hagan was allowed to stay in his ministry and promoted.

John W. Curran

By 1990, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was made aware of sexual abuse by Curran but promised not to disclose the information, according to a memo to Goedert dated Nov. 10, 1990. Jeff Anderson & Associates notes in its timeline of events that Curran was forced to resign his position in 1992, due to the sexual abuse allegations, and was placed on a "restricted ministry" but still given access to children.

The report notes that in 1995, Bernardin ordered Curran to undergo treatment at the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute. He was suspended by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki in 1996 for refusing to seek treatment but was reinstated later that year.

Curran retired from active ministry in 2000 and died later that year.  


Reader Comments

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Posted: January 27th, 2014 1:25 PM

I've never understood why the police never seemed to do anything about these cases back in the day.


Posted: January 27th, 2014 12:09 AM

All this and yet they asked Sr. Teresita to leave.


Posted: January 26th, 2014 10:46 AM

I am referring to those in the hierarchy. They set the tone for church and are supposed to be the leaders and set the examples.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: January 25th, 2014 4:07 PM

Leanne, when you say you have no respect for the Catholic Church, are you including the laity as well or are you referring to those in the hierarchy who colluded with keeping the sexual abuse hidden and/or were a users themselves?


Posted: January 25th, 2014 11:51 AM

Johanna,, very well said. I was abused as a young teen and can only admit it online where no one knows me. I admire those who can come forward because they have the courage that I don't. At 45 years old , I can say that it has affected every relationship that I have been in, I missed out on my teen years which should have been fun. From 12-16 I kept a secret and had no idea how it would affect me as I grew up.


Posted: January 25th, 2014 11:29 AM


Johanna Brocker from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 25th, 2014 6:40 AM

during the sex abuse scandal and at it's very height...the previous Pope launched an investigation into women religious to see if they were living up to their vocations. women religious are still under investigation with the current Pope. no such investigation was made of these priests...children who are abused sexually lose their childhood and a very real piece of themselves and no one really seems to care. money does not buy that for the allegations that these people and the children are making the complaints up... what is the real chance of that.. all of us tend to be quiet about our sexual experiences. who wants to bear the humiliation of saying I was sexually abused as a child?


Posted: January 24th, 2014 10:47 PM

The abuse is one of the reasons why I left the Catholic church (working in a rectory for a few years also added to that-if people only knew what went on). The church has been covering up the abuse for decades-all they do is keep transferring the abusers around until they get caught and some never do. The church has lied and put numerous children in danger and yet it continues. I have zero respect for the Catholic church.

How do we find out way again?  

Posted: January 24th, 2014 6:09 PM

One thing the tragedy of these cases of childhood sexual abuse does is overshadow the good done in churches and schools all of these years.The pedophiles have made millions of people want to leave the Church and organized religion entirely. At the same time, good people who believed in the mission of organized religion dedicated and devoted to helping others have worked in earnest and lived good lives. We should never forget their sacrifice. These scandals must be so hard on those decent people.

former St. Catherine's Parishioner  

Posted: January 24th, 2014 5:38 PM

Many of us are still around who knew all three of these priests. Mayer, ALWAYS suspect by anyone with any sense of observation. Curran gave me the creeps. Hagan was another story. He seemed like a kind, warm teddy bear, with an out-there personal style. He would embrace, it seemed like part of his personal style. Then I heard from a young man how Hagan was free with his hands and made a sexual advance on him. Sadly, some victims never come forward. Some just don't want the negative attention.

Judy Block-Jones from Marthasville, Missouri  

Posted: January 24th, 2014 12:45 PM

The victims are to be commended for taking action to expose the truth and therefore protect children today. It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Some have many. Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever. So let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by James Craig Hagan, Robert E. Mayer and John W. Curran, will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement, no matter how long ago it happened. Your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others. Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511, "SNAP" the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

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