Order kept cleric after sex abuse accusations, the roads to a mayoral runoff and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a five-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Order kept cleric after sex abuse accusations, the roads to a mayoral runoff and more in your Chicago news roundup
Screenshot_2023_02_21_at_5.51.27_PM.png

Marmion Academy in Aurora, a Catholic school run by the Benedictine religious order, whose leadership has posted a list of its clergy members found to have sexually abused minors. It has two names on it, both men now dead.

Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a high near 29 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a chance of snow and a low near 27. Expect tomorrow to be mostly sunny with a high near 39. Sunday will be sunny with a high near 48.

Top story

Benedictine order admits keeping cleric at Marmion Academy for years after child sex abuse accusations

The Catholic religious order that runs Marmion Academy in Aurora is acknowledging for the first time that one of its members had “established allegations” of child sex abuse in the 1970s and remained at the school for years.

During that time, Brother Jerome Skaja was accused of more sexual misconduct involving minors.

The Benedictines long hid the fact that Skaja, who died in 2016, had been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a Marmion student in the 1980s, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported in October — and also that they reached a secret financial settlement with the accuser when he threatened to sue when he turned 18.

In December, the Rev. John Brahill, a Marmion leader, said the order planned to post its first public list of “established offenders,” as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has done and as many other Catholic religious orders have. Now, the order has done that. Its list includes two people: Skaja and the Rev. Augustine Jones, a twice-convicted sex offender who died in 2007.

Skaja — who oversaw intramurals and was involved in fundraising for the school — had “multiple” incidents in which he was accused of molesting minors in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the new list, which says the accusations have been deemed to be “true.”

“Established allegations are defined as such — based upon the facts and the circumstances, there is objective certainty that the accusation is true and that an incident of sexual abuse of a minor has occurred,” a note posted with the list says. “The names on the list . . . are based on a process of consultation with an independent review board and is not a legal judgement.”

The Benedictines’ leaders won’t say when they learned of Skaja’s sexual misconduct, what, if anything, was done about the accusations in the 1970s and why he was allowed to stay with the order until 1988.

That was the year Skaja was “dismissed,” the order’s posting says.

Brahill won’t say why Skaja was forced out at that point even though order leaders had known for years by then about the accusations from the Marmion student who got the settlement that Skaja had repeatedly sexually abused him.

That accuser, a former prosecutor now living out of state, says he was assigned to collect athletic equipment after intramural sporting events at Marmion, which at the time was a military-style Catholic boarding school, and take it to a secluded “basement area.”

That’s where he says that, during his sophomore year, Skaja would sexually assault him.

Our Robert Herguth has more in his latest Watchdogs Report here.

More news you need

The mayor’s race

Mayor_022423_02_top4.jpeg

Public polls, as well as internal polls conducted by the campaigns, consistently show four candidates somewhere atop the field of Chicago mayoral contenders (from left): Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas; and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Internal and external polling in the red-hot race for mayor of Chicago has been all over the map, but the polls agree on one thing: Only four of the nine candidates have a real shot at making the April 4 runoff.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas is likely to be one of the runoff contenders based on those polls. The second slot is up for grabs between incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and a surging Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

The four top-polling candidates have different formulas to reach that benchmark and punch their ticket to the runoff. The Sun-Times talked to campaign managers and political strategists for the final four — along with several other veteran political observers — to get their take on what each of the candidates needs to make it to Round 2.

Read Fran Spielman’s full analysis here.

A bright one

This young artist won our student art contest and will have her work turned into a mural you can see at the Salt Shed

Lucy Holloway, 11, creates art to pass the time and because it’s fun.

It also “allows me to get out some things that I have going on,” says the sixth-grader at Twin Groves Middle School in Buffalo Grove. “It gives me a little escape from the world.”

Soon, everyone will get to see a giant version of one of her latest creations, titled “All in Harmony,” a drawing she did in part digitally and in part by hand.

As the winner of a student art contest sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times and media partners WBEZ and Vocalo, her prize is having her drawing turned into a sprawling mural that will be on display for all to see at the Salt Shed entertainment venue along the Chicago River on the North Side. The space was donated by Wintrust Bank.

Lucy_H_Age11_Grade6_TwinGrovesMiddle_BuffaloGrove_NorthwestBurb.png

“All in Harmony,” 11-year-old Lucy Holloway’s winning artwork in the student art contest sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ and Vocalo.

Provided

The mural, which will be going up soon, will be displayed for about two months.

Her drawing includes hands of different colors, with hearts centered in the palms, floating in the night sky above a globe on which the Chicago skyline is perched. That’s in keeping with the theme of the contest, “Bringing Chicago’s Voices Together,” meant to celebrate diversity.

Lucy’s own words regarding her message: “I’m not sure how to put this, kind of we’re, like, different” but “the same.

“The entire world can be really big and really tiny at the exact same time,” she says.

We’ve got more with Lucy and her work here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What is one book that you think every Chicagoan should read? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Say you’ve been tasked with creating a new superhero from Chicago for an upcoming movie. What is their name and superpower?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Ratman. Bitten by a rat in his childhood, he slowly morphed into a 6-foot rat out for revenge on the creatures that caused his fate. He is the answer to our city’s rat problem —as well as our empty pizza boxes. Or — the Street Lighter. The hero who climbs poles by night to repair blown-out street lights 200 days before the city gets around to it. He’s the real 311.” — Jeff Kwit

“Windy! Accompanied everywhere they go by that old Association hit, ‘Everyone knows it’s windy.’ Windy has the ability to whip up a whirlwind of righteous excitement with the hot air that’s always present at City Hall and — unlike many politicians there — not just be a blow-hard.” — Paul Lockwood

“Paczkiman. He has the power to say his own name differently and WRONG every single time. There’s a long line to meet him, but he’s just not as good as that one time you saw him — and then you feel gross and guilty afterward. Sidekick is Pierogiboy.” — Cheryl Wisniewski

“The Miesian, a being who is able to get to the essence of things before everyone else and simplify, simplify, simplify before they know what hit them.” — Debbie Becker

“Belmont — faster than a speeding CTA Bus. More powerful than a Streets and Sanitation garbage truck. Able to leap turnstiles in a single bound. Superpower — hailing a taxi cab telepathically.” — Robert Lisowski

“‘Big Shoulders.’ Our superhero is known to lend a helping hand and support or carry those that need help. He appreciates a good partnership and encourages others to do the same.” — Catherine Greenspon

“His name is Maxwell and he protects us from the enemy by throwing hot onions in them and blinding them with hot mustard.” — Anselmo Villegas Jr.

“The Expediter — he has the power of clout to get building permits approved.” — Dan Korn

“Canaryville Man! With the superpower of always knowing a guy who could do the job fer half da price!” — Brendan Murphy

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

The Latest
A back-and-forth game Saturday provided plenty of drama as the Cubs suffered their eighth loss in 11 games.
“We didn’t execute well at all,” Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. “It looked like we got mixed up on some things we were trying to do, not in the right positions.”
Friday marked a self-imposed adjournment date for lawmakers — but neither the revenue, appropriations or budget implementation measures had been brought to the floor by either the House or Senate. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch on Saturday said the House will adjourn for the holiday weekend and return next week to take up the budget.