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Men describe alleged abuse by popular Chicago priest

BY CATHLEEN FALSANI Religion Reporter
March 4, 2004

Two men who say they were sexually abused more than 20 years ago by the popular Roman Catholic priest John Calicott broke their silence Wednesday and told their side of a story that has cost the priest his ministry.

David Lasley, 40, who lives on Chicago's North Side with his wife and two children, said Calicott began molesting him on a camping trip in Canada in 1976.

At the time, Calicott was an assistant pastor at St. Ailbe Parish on Chicago's South Side, his first assignment after being ordained. Lasley was a 12-year-old member of the parish.

"I was assigned to his tent," Lasley recalled, saying he woke up to find Calicott engaging in a sexual act in him. "I was petrified. It was the middle of the night. It was dark, and I was afraid for my life."

That was the first time, Lasley said, "and it happened again the next night, and the next night, and the next night. It happened basically thereafter on every camping trip," over two years, he said.

"Toward the end of it, it was no longer me laying there and pretending to be sleeping. It was in his room, in his bed, maybe once a week, maybe twice a week. It was at that point that I got so disgusted with it that I just stopped coming around," Lasley said.

Calicott, 56, did not return a call from the Chicago Sun-Times seeking comment.

In 1994, Lasley and a second man who says Calicott also molested him in the late 1970s took their complaints to officials at the Chicago archdiocese.

Because of their allegations, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin removed Calicott from ministry in 1994. But less than a year later, at the urging of Calicott's parishioners at Holy Angels Church where he had been pastor since 1992, the cardinal returned the popular priest to the pulpit, saying he did not believe Calicott was a threat to children.

But in June 2002, Cardinal Francis George removed Calicott from ministry again in accordance with new church law that says no priest with allegations of sexual misconduct with children against him can be allowed to serve.

Six weeks ago, George chastised Calicott once again after the priest violated church policy by returning to Holy Angels School to lecture students on sex and other topics.

The second man who made allegations of misconduct against Calicott back in 1993 has maintained his anonymity.

But a third man has come forward with new allegations. Fred Arceneaux, 40, who lives in the Chicago area with his two teenage sons, says Calicott molested him when he was 16.

It happened on a trip to Kentucky in April 1980, in a hotel, Arceneaux recalled.

"That night, [Calicott] had been drinking heavily," he said. "At 5 in the morning I woke up to find him masturbating me. At first I thought it was because of him drinking and that he was dreaming. I was scared. I casually yawned and then moved further away from him.

"Five minutes later on, he scooted over and tried to masturbate me again. At that point, you realize that this wasn't a dream, this wasn't a mistake, this was something he intended to do," he said.

Arceneaux got up out of bed and locked himself in the bathroom, he said. A few minutes later, Calicott knocked on the bathroom door and said, "'Why don't you come back to bed? I'm not going to bother you,' " Arceneaux said.

Arceneaux and Lasley both said they decided to go public with their stories because of how Calicott recently has portrayed his misconduct. In January, Calicott said he had never admitted to sexual misconduct, repeating what he said in 1995 upon his reinstatement at Holy Angels: "Something that should not have occurred did occur."

"He makes it sound like he touched me on the head the wrong way," Lasley said. "No. He raped me."

In a prepared statement, the Rev. Robert Miller, administrator of Holy Angels and one of Calicott's staunchest defenders, said Lasley's story is "directly contradictory" to statements the man made at Holy Angels 10 years ago after Calicott was removed for the first time.

"The accuser came to Holy Angels Church on his own accord and stated that nothing happened," Miller said in the statement.

While he admits he did give a speech at a church meeting in 1994, Lasley denies any recantation and produced a yellowing computer printout of the speech he says he read that day. Nowhere in the speech, which talks about the need for prayer and forgiveness, does Lasley recant his claims.


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