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Catholic Priests Removed From Parishes Over Sex Abuse Allegations

November 20, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ At least two Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children have been removed from their parishes, the archdiocese says.

A three-member investigatory panel created last month by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin recommended their removal, Joy Clough, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said Tuesday.

Ms. Clough said ″a handful″ of priests were reassigned at the panel’s request. She refused to identify them or say exactly how many were reassigned, but she confirmed the removal of two priests named in news reports.

She refused to give details of the allegations or the priests’ new assignments. But the diocese earlier said such priests would not be given new parishes.

Bernardin created the panel after an uproar over the Rev. Robert Mayer, who was removed from St. Odilo Church in suburban Berwyn in July. Church officials acknowledged last month that Mayer left after a teen-age boy accused him of making sexual advances. Later, a 14-year-old girl said Mayer had improperly touched her. Mayer entered a treatment center last summer.

It was eventually revealed that Mayer had been sued in 1982 for allegedly exposing himself to and trying to molest two altar boys. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Mayer switched parishes.

″With the heightened public concern, the archdiocese is moving to make sure its policies are up to date and make as certain as possible that young people are not at risk,″ Ms. Clough said. ″That’s why we’re taking this cautious approach.″

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office is investigating Mayer, but no charges have been filed, spokeswoman Julie Driscoll said today.

In the latest cases, Ms. Clough confirmed that the Rev. James Ray of Transfiguration Church in Waukonda and the Rev. Ken Ruge of Divine Savior Church in Norridge were among those removed.

Both had been accused of sexual misconduct at earlier assignments, Ms. Clough said. Authorities in Lake County and Norridge said neither is under criminal investigation.

Before the panel was created, most priests accused of sexual abuse were assigned to new parishes without warning to the parishioners as long as they were supervised and received counseling.

″They covered it up,″ said Elizabeth Mallin, a member of Ray’s old church. ″When you send your children to school, you expect everything to be OK. You expect not to have any fear whatsoever, and we do now.″

The panel continues to investigate alleged abuse by priests in the nation’s second-largest Catholic archdiocese, which serves 2.4 million Catholics.

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