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Friends recall priest: 'Be careful if you stay overnight with him'

Robert Craig used to drive a “beat up, funny looking van,” one parishioner said.

Inside, Craig always had “at least” four or five young boys, he said.

Others said the former priest liked to dress up like a clown during his tenure at All Saints-St. Anthony in Bridgeport in the late 1970s and early 1980s, records show.

Some told investigators they remembered him fondly. And a young man who met Craig later at St. Ann in the Lower West Side once said he and his friends thought Craig was a nice guy, according to documents released Thursday by the Chicago Archdiocese.

Robert D. Craig. | Sun-Times File Photo

But they allegedly joked: “Yeah, but be careful if you stay overnight with him.”

The interviews are included in thousands of pages of records released Thursday. The documents are related to 36 priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, including Craig.

The claims against Craig led to his administrative leave and, ultimately, to his resignation from active ministry in 1993, the records show. But accusations continued to surface — and one alleged victim claimed to be abused by Craig more than 60 times.

Attempts to reach Craig on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Five years ago, a fire was set and the words “Rape” and “Happend’s here” were spelled out in red duct tape at All Saints-St. Anthony. So was the sentence “God is a Lie.” A second fire was set next to a street light directly across from the church.

Craig served there from 1977 to 1982. But records show the abuse Craig is accused of committing occurred between 1982 and 1991, and an attorney for the alleged victims said at the time he wasn’t aware of abuse that occurred at All Saints-St. Anthony.

Church officials removed Craig in October 1990 from St. Mark in Ukrainian Village, less than a month after a 20-year-old man accused Craig of raping him over a period of six months during overnight stays at the rectory when he was 15. At the time, Craig would have been at St. Ann, records show.

An 18-year-old man told another priest in January 1993 he met Craig at St. Ann. He shared an allegation about “a priest” who used to encourage him and other boys staying at the rectory to sleep without clothing and swim in the nude at Mundelein Seminary’s pool.

Then he described a conversation with a group of friends during which it was said, “Father Bob was horny.”

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin accepted Craig’s resignation eight months later.

Records show allegations also surfaced in 1997, 2004 and in 2006, when one alleged victim accused Craig of more than 60 incidents of abuse.