Chicago’s “Dangerous Dozen” Publicly accused priests who most pose a potential threat to kids

--Fr. Joseph Fertal was involved in at least one civil suit and was criminally investigated in connection with allegations of child sexual abuse. He was purportedly sent to St. Michael’s Institute, an institution known for treating priests accused of child sexual abuse, multiple times beginning in the 1980s. According to San Bernardino church officials, Fr. Fertal was permanently banned from ministry in that diocese and was included in its list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse. In 2003, he was believed to be living in Jemez SpringsNew Mexico, the site of another church priest treatment center, but his current whereabouts are unknown. Fr. Fertal was at LoyolaUniversity and in the Philippines twice: in Manila and at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

He belongs to a religious order known as the Divine World Missionaries and worked twice at its seminary in TechnyIL. The order is based in Rome. 

Potentially dangerous because:
Only the most dangerous clerics ever get barred or banned from a diocese, also because of his international travel and because his whereabouts are unknown.

--Fr.  James Vincent Flosi was sued in 2005 for allegedly abusing a Quigley Theological Seminary student in 1980 while assigned to Holy Name Cathedral. He faced multiple reports of sexual abusing kids dating to the 1970s. In 1991, he was accused of teaching several middle school age boys to masturbate and the following year he resigned from the priesthood and was defrocked in 2010. Later, he became the founder and CEO of Aidscare in Chicago.

Potentially dangerous because:
Most often, only the most egregious clergy offenders get defrocked, he’ obviously well-spoken and able to win others’ trust because he founded a non-profit that potentially deals with vulnerable people even after having been permanently kicked out of the priesthood by the Vatican.

--Fr. Robert D. Friese was a teacher/counselor at Maryville Academy for at-risk youth in Des Plaines. In 1984, he was charged with sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy he met at Maryville. Victim said abuse was from 1982 to 1984 and included fondling and oral sex. At time of indictment, Fr. Friese was on leave from the Chicago archdiocese and working as a researcher at University of Illinois at Chicago's child care program. He was convicted in 1985, put on probation for four years and sent to House of Affirmation, a church-run treatment center. In 1985, he resigned from the priesthood and was defrocked in 1987.

Potentially dangerous because:
Most often, only the most egregious clergy offenders get criminally convicted and defrocked, because of his pattern of seeking out positions around especially vulnerable kids, and because his whereabouts are unknown.

--Fr. Chester J. Gawronski was accused in 2002 of molesting an 11-year-old altar boy in the late 1970s. Last year, he was named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. His church supervisors knew in 1986 of his alleged abuse of a 13-year-old boy in 1976-77. In 1987, he confessed to abusing up to 20 boys and later admitted to molesting another 21 boys.

He was suspended in 2002 and defrocked in 2006. Last year, he was living in Arizona. 

Potentially dangerous because:

He’s been defrocked, because he admitted repeated child sex rimes and because few in Arizona are probably aware of his past, especially because he’s not on a sex offender registry.

--Fr. James Griffin is referred to in some news articles as a "deacon" in the Passionist Order.  He was convicted in 1988 of abusing an eleven year boy between 1974-1977 at St. Raphael. He spent 60 days in jail and five years on probation. Griffin also faced two civil abuse lawsuits. As of 2002, Griffith lived at a Passionist residence in Chicago.

Potentially dangerous because:
Often only the most prolific predators get convicted, because typically religious order offenders remain ‘under the radar’ (versus diocesan offenders) and because we suspect his neighbors know little or nothing of his past (and likely believe he’s just a retired priest).

He’s still living in the area, likely with little or no real supervision, and perhaps still presenting himself as a cleric, even if informally. (His church supervisors are unlikely to have been up front about housing proven predators so nearby families who may see him coming and going from a church home or facility likely assume he’s still a cleric.) His conviction came in the pre-internet years, the pre-sex offender registry years and his is a common name so it’s harder to find information about him and his crimes on-line.

--Fr. Mel W. Hermanns was removed as pastor of Our Lady Gate of Heaven in Chicago in 2012. The following year, he was identified in a Capuchin report as “a current friar with confirmed reports of sexual abuse of minors.” The first known incident of abuse was in 1969 involved a St. Lawrence Seminary student. It was reported in 1993 and the order paid for the student's counseling. He was also reported in 1990 for suspect conduct involving physical activities with boys.

Fr. Hermanns sent to the Paracletes, a church-run treatment program. 

Potentially dangerous because:
Religious order offender clerics usually attract less attention, because his alleged crimes span such a long time and because he was so clearly problematic that  his own church supervisors suspended and ‘outed’ him but provided very little information about his alleged wrongdoing.

-- Fr. John ­­­M. Huels was accused in 1994 of abusing a 15-year-old boy in New Jersey in the 1970s. He admitted the abuse and a second victim came forward. Fr. Heuls was forced to step down as head of the Chicago-based Servites.

By 2002, he was still a priest and professor and a vice dean of at St. Paul's University in Ottowa. The college said he took "medical leave for the treatment of severe depression" that same year after an allegation against him surfaced publicly.

The Ottawa archbishop said Huels was leaving Servites and would seek laicization. But in 2018, Fr. Huel was still aSt. Paul professor. He was removed from that position after publicity the same month after there was more publicly about his case. 

Potentially dangerous because:
He’s well-educated, well-spoken and may have powerful church allies, having headed a religious order and given his success at staying on the job and getting new jobs even after having been publicly accused of abuse.

--Fr. Bernard J. Knoth, a Jesuit who resigned in 2003 as president of Loyola University in New Orleans after allegations that he sexually abused a student at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in Indianapolis, where he was principal 1986-88. His Jesuit supervisors deemed the accusation credible. He also worked at universities in Washington DC and Chicago. As of 2007, Fr. Knoth was working in a private business in Sarasota, FL.

Last year, he was put on the ‘accused’ lists of both the Indianapolis and the New Orleans archdioceses. Supposedly, Knoth has been 'dispensed from the clerical state.'

Potentially dangerous because:
Having been a high school principal and college president, he’s well-educated and well-spoken and well-connected, now living among unsuspecting families who are apt to be unaware of his past.

--Fr. Jean Baptist “J. B.” Ormechea took a leave of absence in 1993 after a Chicago family alleged he abused their son in 1983. He was evaluated and returned to duty but removed again, this time from a Louisville KY parish in 2002 after four men accused him of abusing them when they were boys in Chicago.

Fr. Ormechea was named by at least six people in civil abuse suits, one of which alleged he was removed fromChicago in1988 after yet another allegation. In 2004, he was found working for the Order in Rome and was still there in 2012.

Potentially dangerous because:
Living in the literal and figurative power center of Catholicism where millions of devout families visit annually. If he groped a child now, by the time that boy or girl found the strength and courage to report, he or she would likely not even recall Fr. O’s name.

--Fr. Carlos Peralta has a history of allegations of sexual misconduct beginning in seminary in Chile in 1980s. Other allegations against him surfaced in Guatemala and Peru. His religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, transferred him to Chicago where he was accused of abusing several children in one family in 1999. Fr. Peralta’s church supervisors then transferred him before any investigation could begin, first to New Jersey to a supposedly ‘monitored’ residence and then to his home province. In 2004, he was working as priest in Mexico.

Potentially dangerous because:

In developing nations, the power differential between priest and parishioner is much greater. So priests are even more trusted and revered and it’s even tougher for families to report to criminal authorities. Also, his alleged abuse spans several decades.

--Br. Raimond Rose, who was named in a 2003 civil suit in California for allegedly abusing a 14 year old boy in early 1982. That suit settled in 2004 for $1.1 million. Other lawsuits against him were filed in North Dakota,Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 2010, 16 cases against him were settled.

Since, 2002, when he was suspended from ministry, Rose has been living in Chicago. 

Potentially dangerous because:
He apparently is here now, because has reportedly abused many kids and because the public scrutiny of him has mostly happened elsewhere.

--Fr. John P. Smyth who headed a residential treatment facility for abused children called Maryville Academy in Des Plaines from 1970-2003. In 2003, he was removed after a resident's suicide and allegations of abuse among residents surfaced. From 2007-2014, Fr. Smyth was president of Notre Dame College Prep in Niles 2007-2014.

Two months ago, he stepped down after allegations arose that he sexually abused two boys, ages 13 and 14, in 2002-2003. One of the boys reportedly came forward shortly after the alleged abuse, but no action was taken. 

Potentially dangerous because:
He’s clearly well spoken, able to win people’s trust and confidence, has had access to hundreds or thousands of already-abused kids who are less likely to report if they’re victimized again by a powerful authority figure. 

--Fr. Freddy Washington, who was pastor of St. Mark the Evangeist parish in Harlem in the New York archdiocese when he was arrested in 2017 for sexually abusing two boys (ages 10 and 11-14) at a church in Charleston SC.

At the time, Washington was a lay person and volunteer and the boys were training to be altar servers. He also worked in the Rockville Centre diocese in New York and is the former pastor of two Chicago parishes. In 2017, he was listed on the Xavier University in New Orleans website as an associate professor of pastoral theology. 

Potentially dangerous because:
He’s charismatic and connected enough to land a job at a university despite his arrest and his relatively common name may make it hard for people with suspicions to track down information about him.

DETAILS: David G. Clohessy 314 443 5915, 314 566 9790 (cell)
[email protected]

Showing 1 comment

  • Gail Howard
    commented 2019-03-18 17:50:07 -0500
    As a survivor of abuse in the Archdiocese of Chicago, I’m not surprised that there are Chicago abusers walking free. Why doesn’t the church take responsibility for these people? Anyone who hires employees, independent contractors or volunteers should go beyond finger printing and check for abuse claims. The sex offender registry only lists people who have been convicted. Too bad for vulnerable children and their unsuspecting parents.

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