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Victims group upset over letter from Loyola Academy on sex abuse

September 2, 2003

BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times

A letter sent to parents and alumni of Loyola Academy in Wilmette intended to address a sex abuse lawsuit has riled a victims' advocacy group.

The letter, sent last month by the president of the North Shore school, disclosed that the lawsuit had been filed against a priest who taught at the school in the 1960s and invited parents to call with any concerns.

The letter from Loyola President Rev. Theodore G. Munz said the allegations were 35 years old and said: "First and most importantly, let me state that the Loyola Academy community abhors the very idea of predatory sexual behavior in any form and has built a culture and an environment where your children are safe and protected."

But four members of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests held a news conference in the rain Monday outside the Chicago provincial headquarters of the Jesuits, the Catholic religious order that runs the school, to blast the "self-congratulatory" letter as "inaccurate, insensitive, [and] smug'' and "intended to keep other victims quiet."

Jesuit officials did not return calls seeking comment. There have been no criminal charges filed against the priest.

"Loyola Academy's knowledge of the complaint is limited to news reports, since we have not received an official copy of the complaint," the letter said.

"They claim they did not receive a copy of lawsuit but the attorney was there and handed a copy to a press person for the school," Barbara A. Blaine, president of SNAP, said of the August 21 news conference where the lawsuit was announced.

SNAP's main complaint against school officials is they did not heed SNAP's advice to include in the letter language urging other alleged victims of the priest to come forward and call the school, police, prosecutors or SNAP.

"Victims of sex crimes are almost always reluctant to come forward," Blaine says in a new letter to Munz. "They feel shame, confusion, guilt and hopelessness. And when they remain silent, kids remain at risk. But if you and other responsible leaders specifically and sensitively urge them to break their silence, they may respond."

The priest, Donald Mcguire, last taught at Loyola in 1970. He has since handled retreats for adults and children but was removed from active ministry after the lawsuit was filed, Jesuit officials have said.

Munz said in the letter that Loyola encourages students to engage in "open communication" with 14 guidance counselors, peer counselors and others in an attempt to prevent further sex abuse.

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