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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For immediate release:
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2005

For more information:
David Clohessy, St. Louis, MO, SNAP National Director cell (314) 566-9790
Barbara Blaine, Chicago, IL, SNAP President cell (312) 399-4747

Sex Abuse Group Urges Cardinal & University To Reach Out To Victims

They Want "Explanation and Apology" From Top Church & School Officials

Priest Works As Chaplain After Admitting Sex With Teen

SNAP Worries About Others Hurt By Cleric Who Still "Suffer in Silence"

A local support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging Chicago's top Catholic official to remove an abusive Catholic priest from his job as a university chaplain, apologize to his victims, and explain how he remains in active ministry despite admitting sexual misconduct with a teenager years ago.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing Cardinal Francis George, urging him to suspend Fr. Michael T. Yakaitis from his position at the University of Chicago's Catholic Center, and "immediately apologize to Fr. Yakaitis' victims, and explain to your flock why you knowingly put teenagers in harm's way by keeping a molester in active duty in your archdiocese."

Beginning in 1993, the victim reported Yakaitis' exploitation and manipulation to at least seven church officials including: Fr. John Canary (847) 566-6401, (former Vicar for Priests and current Rector - St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien); Fr. Larry McBrady (708) 403-0101, (former Vicar for Priests in the administration of Frances Cardinal George);Fr. Jerry Kincanas (520) 792-3410, (former Rector - St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien and current Bishop of the Tucson Diocese); Fr. Cletus Kiley (202) 541-3000, (former Rector - Niles College Seminary and current assistant to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops); Joseph Cardinal Bernadin (former Archbishop of Chicago); Fr. James Presta (773) 973-9700, (Rector - St. Joseph College Seminary, Loyola University of Chicago); and Fr. Michael Foley (former Rector - Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary High School).

Until yesterday, the name of Yakaitis had never been disclosed publicly as a molester. But one of his victims spoke at a news conference organized by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and gave reporters a lengthy letter detailing the abuse he suffered. The letter was delivered to University President Dr. Don Michael Randel.

Last night, WBBM TV reporter Jay Levine interviewed Fr. John Canary, former Vicar for Priests for the Archdiocese of Chicago and current Rector at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien. Fr. Canary confirmed meetings between the victim and numerous church leaders as well as the victim's account of Fr. Yakaitis' misconduct. http://cbs2chicago.com/homepage/

"Fr. Yakaitis should be fired today, period" said SNAP national director David Clohessy of St. Louis.

"This is at least the second time Cardinal George has clearly violated the US bishops' guidelines on abuse" said Clohessy. "His flock deserves some straight answers, and Fr. Yakaitis' victims deserve a strong public apology." University parents should also be outraged, he said.

In January 2003, George allowed a Delaware priest who'd pled guilty to abuse in Maryland to work in the archdiocese and live in the Cardinal's mansion.

In 1998, Yakaitis admitted sexually exploiting an 18 year old Niles College seminarian at Loyola University. Yakaitis was a professor, dean of students, and the teen's spiritual director and counselor during 1990 and 1991, when the abuse took place. He allegedly sexually victimized two other seminarians during the same period.

The victim has not filed criminal or civil charges, because the statute of limitations has expired. But he alleges that Yakaitis used "alcohol, coercion, and blackmail to initiate a series of sexual encounters," threatening to expel him from seminary if he told, and promising to advance his seminary career if he remained silent.

Yakaitis' actions were, the victim feels, "unethical, abusive, and emotionally devastating. The victim is now 32 years old, is unmarried, lives in Chicago, and holds a professional position.

SNAP also wants top school and archdiocesan officials to reach out to anyone who may have witnessed or experienced molestation by the cleric.

SNAP is the nation's oldest and largest self-help group for men and women victimized by clergy.

A copy of SNAP's letter to George, sent today by e mail and fax, is below:

February 8, 2005

Francis Cardinal George

Archbishop of Chicago

Archdiocese of Chicago
155 E. Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Cardinal George:

On behalf of Fr. Yakaitis' victims and for the safety of all young people, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is demanding that Fr. Yakaitis be fired immediately from his position at the University of Chicago's Catholic Center and that top archdiocesan officials

-- explain why you have again violated the "one strike" promises you have repeatedly made,

-- apologize for recklessly putting innocent teens and young people at risk, and

-- reach out to anyone else who may have witnessed or experienced molestation by the cleric.

In 1998, Fr. Yakaitis admitted sexually exploiting an 18 year old Niles College seminarian at Loyola University. Yakaitis was a professor, dean of students, and the teen's spiritual director and counselor during 1990 and 1991, when the abuse took place. He allegedly sexually victimized two other seminarians during the same period.

Until yesterday, the name of Yakaitis had never been disclosed publicly as a molester. However, one of Fr. Yakaitis victims first reported Yakaitis' exploitation and manipulation in 1993. That victim subsequently reported the sexual abuse to at least seven church officials including Fr. John Canary, current rector of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien; Fr. Gerald Kicanis, now bishop of Tucson, and Fr. Larry McBrady, a former Vicar for Priests under your administration.

This courageous victim spoke yesterday at a news conference organized by SNAP, and gave reporters a lengthy letter detailing the abuse he suffered. The letter was delivered to University of Chicago President Dr. Don Michael Randel.

In response to this news conference, WBBM TV reporter Jay Levine conducted an interview last night with Fr. John Canary. Fr. Canary confirmed meetings between the victim and numerous church leaders as well as the victim's account of Fr. Yakaitis' misconduct. http://cbs2chicago.com/homepage/

In light of this confirmation, coming from a high ranking Archdiocesan official within your administration, SNAP demands that Fr. Yakaitis be fired immediately.

David Clohessy
National Director
SNAP
7234 Arsenal
St. Louis MO 63143
Barbara Blaine
President
SNAP
PO Box 6416
Chicago, Il. 60680

 

Victim's Statement:

February 7, 2005

Dr. Don Michael Randel
President
University of Chicago
Administration Building
5801 S. Ellis Avenue, 502
Chicago, IL 60637

President Randel:

I write to you after much deliberation, motivated by my concern for the well being of the student body at the University of Chicago as well as for my own integrity. It is my hope that the University of Chicago will give serious consideration to this letter and take appropriate action in response to my concerns.

I have only recently learned of Fr. Michael T. Yakaitis' position as Chaplain & Director of Calvert House, the Catholic Center at the University of Chicago, and am therefore acting as expediently as possible to share past events. In 1998, in front of other priests, he admitted sexual exploiting me when I was his student. Based on my college experience with Fr. Yakaitis, and the subsequent shame, psychological distress, and spiritual isolation it caused, I question the decision that allows him to function as the Catholic campus minister for the University of Chicago.

From August of 1990 until December of 1991, I was a student at Niles College Seminary of Loyola University. During this time Fr. Michael T. Yakaitis held the post of Dean of Students. In addition, Fr. Yakaitis served as my Spiritual Director/Student Counselor as well as an academic professor.

While functioning in those roles Fr. Yakaitis used alcohol, coercion, and blackmail with me to initiate a series of sexual encounters. There is no question in my mind, nor as expressed to me by the various representatives of the Archdiocese of Chicago with whom I addressed these incidents, that these actions by Fr. Yakaitis where unethical, abusive, and emotionally devastating.

It is only because of the grave and deliberate nature of these abusive behaviors by Fr. Yakaitis that I choose to share this history with you in your capacity as President of the University of Chicago. These incidents took place in a university setting while Fr. Yakaitis held a position similar to the one he currently occupies at the University of Chicago, and during which time he exploited this position of trust while I was a student under his direction.

Through the first weeks of my freshman year I had several professional encounters with Fr. Yakaitis. As a result of Fr. Yakaitis' encouragement I decided to choose him as my Spiritual Director. As a point of explanation: spiritual direction is a requirement in the seminary. The intent of spiritual direction is to allow a seminarian a totally confidential setting in which to share his personal, emotional, and spiritual struggles and insights. This relationship is intended to nurture and guide the seminarian during his formation for the priesthood. The Church sees the relationship between a Spiritual Director and the seminarian as sacred. The Spiritual Director serves as confessor and therefore all information shared with the Spiritual Director is held bound by the seal of the confessional.

In the spring of 1990, shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I began to struggle with issues regarding my sexuality. My confusion and uncertainty around this issue were still with me as I began my freshman year at Niles College Seminary. In the course of my spiritual direction with Fr. Yakaitis I divulged my confusion about my sexuality, my dawning realization that I am gay, and my struggle to learn how to integrate my sexual identity with my desire to be a priest. Fr. Yakaitis presented himself as a mentor and a friend, leading me to trust and confide in him.

Late into the Fall of my freshman year Fr. Yakaitis betrayed his ethical responsibility and shattered my trust by perpetrating the first of a series of sexual encounters with me. Over the course of the next year my interaction with Fr. Yakaitis was marked by alcohol, coercion, and threats. Each time I attempted to end the sexual contact Fr. Yakaitis would respond by first threatening my seminary tenure and then follow-up those threats with promises for the advancement of my seminary career. Fr. Yakaitis used threats and manipulation to gain my silence.

In early November of 1991, another seminarian confided in me specifics about Fr. Yakaitis' interaction with him. I subsequently learned that Fr. Yakaitis was perpetrating conduct similar to his interactions with me with two other seminarians; that is, using his role as a college administrator, mentor and Spiritual Director to initiate sexual contact. I confronted Fr. Yakaitis on his conduct. He responded by insinuating that I had initiated the sexual encounters and threatened to divulge the content of our spiritual direction. He informed me that as Dean of Students he was obligated to inform the Archdioceses that I was participating in homosexual behavior. As a result he indicated that I would be expelled from the seminary and publicly outed to my family and the Archdiocese. Uncertain of my rights and emotionally distraught, I withdrew from Niles College Seminary and continued my studies at Loyola University of Chicago without disclosing the incidents involving Fr. Yakaitis.

In the summer of 1993, I sought readmission to the college seminary as a way to conquer my pain by facing the abuse and reclaiming my desire to be a priest. I brought Fr. Yakaitis' behavior to the attention of the Archdiocese of Chicago via the Office of the Vicar for Priests. During numerous meetings between the fall of 1993 and summer of 1994 I divulged this story in its entirety to a number of administrators in the Archdiocese of Chicago including: Fr. John Canary (former Vicar for Priests and current Rector - St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien); Bishop Jerry Kicanas (former Rector - St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien and current Bishop of the Tucson Diocese); Fr. Cletus Kiley (former Rector - Niles College Seminary and current assistant to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops); and Joseph Cardinal Bernadin (former Archbishop of Chicago). I was assured by these individuals that the Archdiocese would take steps to prevent Fr. Yakaitis from having the opportunity to victimize others as he had victimized me.

This issue was raised again in the fall of 1998. At this time I requested that the Vicar for Priests Office, through Fr. Larry McBrady, convene a meeting attended by the rectors of Chicago's archdiocesan seminary programs and by Fr. Yakaitis. This meeting occurred on December 14, 1998 at St. Norbert Parish, Northbrook, Illinois and was attended by Fr. Michael Foley (former Rector - Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary High School); Fr. James Presta (Rector - St. Joseph College Seminary, Loyola University of Chicago); Fr. John Canary (Rector - St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelien); and Fr. Larry McBrady (former Vicar for Priests); among others. During this meeting Fr. Yakaitis admitted his abusive behavior. I also shared my experiences with the rectors and discussed failings in the seminary culture that led to my being victimized. Again, I was told that the Archdiocese would take steps to assure that Fr. Yakaitis would not be given an opportunity to victimize others and that my concerns would be communicated to Chicago's current Archbishop, Francis Cardinal George.

Given the past assurances I received from various administrators within the Archdiocese of Chicago I cannot understand how Fr. Yakaitis could be returned to a ministry almost exactly the same as that in which he victimized me and carried on similar inappropriate and harmful behavior with at least two other students. I consider Fr. Yakaitis' position at the University of Chicago to be a betrayal of promises made to me by the Archdiocese and I question the process by which the University of Chicago allows a former college administrator, professor, and counselor who has admitted a series of inappropriate and abusive sexual encounters with a former student to have direct and unsupervised contact with the students at University.

For years I took the assurances of the Archdiocese of Chicago at face value and chose to address this scandal within the context of the Church. Now it appears to me that the Archdiocese has been patently insincere and has chosen to risk the safety and well being of the University of Chicago's student body by allowing Fr. Yakaitis access to a community similar to the one in which I was victimized. I believe without question that if the administration of the University of Chicago was fully informed of Fr. Yakaitis' history prior to his appointment at Calvert House, that it is as equally culpable for risking the safety of the University's student body as the Archdiocese. If, however, the Archdiocese of Chicago failed to disclose Fr. Yakaitis' past behavior I hope that the University of Chicago will launch an investigation into the process through which the Archdiocese would appoint Fr. Yakaitis as campus minister without fully informing the University's administration of his past destructive and abusive behavior. So too, if the University failed to adequately investigate Fr. Yakaitis' background before hiring him, I hope there will be consequences for those who are responsible for this breach and that steps are taken to insure that future hires are properly investigated and scrutinized. I do not believe that the mothers and fathers of students at the University of Chicago want their children to trust and confide in a priest without knowing that the priest had formerly used his position as a college counselor to manipulate and coerce former students into sexual encounters.

I hope that the University of Chicago will act promptly on the information I have provided. Given the years of emotional conflict and pain I have endured, I have chosen to begin this process anonymously. In 1993, at twenty years of age, and again in 1998, I took the lead in informing the Archdiocese of Fr. Yakaitis' egregious actions. In this instance I have asked the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to bring this issue to your attention. I look to SNAP and the University of Chicago to address this issue in the public forum. In doing so I also hope to communicate to other victims of priest sexual abuse that they can seek justice and solace for wrongs committed against them without having to bare their personal pain to the world. However, should at any point I feel that the this issue is not being given the appropriate degree of scrutiny and openness, or that the Archdiocese is shirking its responsibility, I am committed to risking the unavoidable emotional and psychological stress that will occur as a result of coming forward, and publicly hold those responsible accountable for their capricious and callous decisions.

I pass this information along to you with the fullest sincerity and the conviction of my personal integrity.

Presented On Behalf of Victim By:

Barbara Blaine, President
Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests
Address: PO Box 6416, Chicago, Il. 60680
Phone: (312) 409-2720

http://cbs2chicago.com/homepage/

Church May Have Known About Priest's Past

Jay Levine reports.

Feb 8, 2005 6:42 am US/Central
CHICAGO (CBS 2) A young man who charges he was sexually exploited by a priest is now shocked to find out that the man he accused of abuse is working on a local college campus.

On Monday night, CBS 2 News found the priest conducting a service on the University of Chicago campus.

And CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has exclusive information that the archdiocese may have known about his past.

The traditional burning of palm leaves outside Calvert House in Hyde Park was presided over by the Rev. Michael Vakaitis, now chaplain and director of the campus Catholic ministry.

It is not his first campus post. In the early 1990s, he was dean of students at Niles College, a spiritual director for an aspiring seminarian.

"We had been drinking in his suite in seminary," said the man who wished to remain unnamed. "Other students had left, and he started initiating sexual contact."

This young man never graduated with the others in his class at Niles College. He suffered from an emotional breakdown after confronting Father Vakaitis about their year-long relationship.

"He outright threatened me, He said that as dean of students, he was required to divulge the fact that I was participating in homosexual behavior, that I would be expelled from the seminary, outed to my family and outed to the archdiocese."

It took two years for him to summon the courage to report what had happened.

He told the well-respected Father John Canary, then vicar for priests, now head of Mundelein Seminary.

"Father Canary did tell me that he had confirmed my account, and that they would see to it that Father Vakaitis would never be allowed in a situation where he could victimize someone like he had victimized me."

Father Canary tonight confirms the young man's story and says he was "not part of the process" that placed Vakaitis in Hyde Park.

"Was I consulted? No," he says. "Did I express my concern to the archdiocese when I found out? Yes."

Last week, the victim found out where Vakaitis was now.

"I was stunned and when I got alone. I was devastated. I literally was shaking," he said.

Not wanting to interrupt the prayer service Monday night, CBS 2 crews waited until well after Father Vakaitis had gone inside and the fire was extinguished before trying to speak with him.

"He's down in the house with the kids right now. We have a big party," said the woman at the door. "He's not available."

The man accusing Vakaitis of abuse is mainly concerned about the University of Chicago students.

A university spokesman said Monday night if the allegations are true, they're of great concern.

The archdiocese was responsible for the assignment. It's now looking into how a priest accused of sexually exploiting young college students was reassigned to another college


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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