The Rev. Gregory Polan, abbot primate of the Benedictine confederation, based in Rome.

The Rev. Gregory Polan, abbot primate of the Benedictine confederation, based in Rome.

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Benedictines’ world leader calls on Chicago-area monks tied to Benet, Marmion high schools to fully report clergy sex abuse

“I think that they should be” posting lists of abusive members “because it’s been actually asked of us by the larger church,” the Rev. Gregory Polan told the Sun-Times.

The Benedictine monastery that founded Benet Academy in Lisle and the one that runs Marmion Academy in Aurora should publish complete lists of their clerics who have been deemed to have been credibly accused of child sex offenses, the top official of the Catholic religious order worldwide is urging.

“I would certainly encourage they be honest about those types of things,” the Rev. Gregory Polan, leader of the confederation of Benedictine groups around the world, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I think that they should be” posting such lists of abusive members “because it’s been actually asked of us by the larger church,” Polan said in an interview from Rome, where he is based. “I think we need to do what the larger church is asking of us.”

Pope Francis met last summer at the Vatican with leaders of several Catholic orders. Speaking about child sex abuse by clergy, the worldwide leader of the Catholic church told them, “Please do not hide this reality.”

The pope’s main representative in the Chicago area, Cardinal Blase Cupich, has called on orders that operate in his geographic territory of Cook and Lake counties to make public the names of predatory clergy. That’s even though Cupich has delayed for years releasing the names of predator priests he’s been made aware of.

And the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a consortium of male religious orders in the United States, has recommended that its member groups post public lists of their child-molesting clergy and brothers.

Despite those calls, the Benedictine monastery that founded Benet Academy maintains no publicly available list of members who have been credibly accused of child sex offenses.

The Benedictine monastery that runs Marmion recently published such a list, but it appears to exclude some names.

The Catholic priests who run both places — the Rev. John Brahill at Marmion and the Rev. Austin Murphy of Lisle’s St. Procopius Abbey — have declined Sun-Times interview requests or to answer questions regarding predatory clergy.

Marmion is in the Diocese of Rockford. Benet is in the Diocese of Joliet.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul called last month for greater openness regarding abusive clergy members by Catholic dioceses, which, like the Archdiocese of Chicago, cover a certain geographic territory and are headed by a bishop, and orders, which largely are independently run and, in the Chicago area, oversee or operate Catholic high schools in the city and suburbs.

Raoul’s call came as he released a report documenting that the Catholic church hierarchy in Illinois has vastly underreported child-molesting clerics for decades.

St. Procopius updated its website last year to say names of members who are accused of sexual abuses would be posted after the accusations have been substantiated.

But so far no such listing has been posted. And it appears that St. Procopius leaders will not make public any information involving old accusations, only those involving new cases of abuse.

Murphy has declined to discuss whether accusations about his abbey’s now-closed St. Joseph Bohemian Orphanage in Lisle, which was the subject of a 2011 federal lawsuit over abuse, have been deemed by the order to be credible. That lawsuit was dismissed on appeal in 2014.

Nor will Murphy discuss whether accusations in lawsuits against the Rev. Terence Fitzmaurice are credible. Fitzmaurice, a Benedictine who served at St. Procopius Church in Pilsen for years and died in 2009, was accused of child sex abuse in lawsuits settled by church officials.

Polan — who was born in Berwyn, grew up in Riverside and attended Quigley South preparatory seminary on the South Side — said that, although he is the leader of Benedictines worldwide, he doesn’t have the authority to force abbeys to release names and other information about predatory clergy.

Polan is elected abbot primate by the leaders of Benedictine congregations around the world, whose monasteries operate semi-autonomously.

“I do function over the abbot presiding, but they’re really not my responsibility,” Polan said. “I know that sounds like a copout, but that’s honest.”

Still, he said, “I am a man who . . . wants to be transparent about these matters.”

Polan said that about a decade ago, when he was in charge of Conception Abbey in Missouri, “We were told by our lawyers not to divulge that information. Times have changed since.”

Church leaders and victims advocacy groups say it’s important for the church to name abusers to be open about the scope of a sex abuse scandal that’s enveloped the Catholic church in waves since the 1980s, to acknowledge what was long denied or covered up and to help victims heal.

Conception has a list of abusive clergy members on its website. An affiliated abbey along the Wisconsin-Illinois border recently released a list. Public disclosure by Benedictine groups elsewhere in the United States has been spotty.

“I hope we all do the right thing,” Polan said.

Clergy sex abuse read, hear more

READ, HEAR MORE

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul at a recent news conference to announce findings of a five-year investigation into clergy sex abuse.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul at a recent news conference to announce findings of a five-year investigation into clergy sex abuse.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

  • Click here to read a May 26, 2023, Chicago Sun-Times report on Attorney General Kwame Raul blasting Cardinal Blase Cupich over comments on the attorney general’s findings on failures on the part of the Archdiocese of Chicago and other Illinois dioceses regarding clergy sexual abuse of minors.
  • Click here for the Sun-Times’ May 23, 2023, report on Raoul’s findings.
  • Click here to listen to reporter Robert Herguth discuss his reporting on Slate’s “What Next” podcast.
More coverage

Related past Sun-Times coverage on Catholic clergy sexual abuse.

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