Wild linked to Chicago Jesuit cover up


Fr. Wild accused for covering up priest sexual abuse

In the last few days, some concerning new information regarding University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild’s six years (1985-’91) as provincial superior of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus has emerged.

Wild, along with other Jesuit leaders in Chicago, is accused of ignoring and/or concealing information on pedophiliac priest the Rev. Donald McGuire. McGuire, 80, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for numerous sexual abuse cases over four decades, according to a March 28 New York Times report.

On Monday, a motion was filed in two Chicago court cases. The motioned documents showed a repeated attempt to conceal and enable McGuire to continue serving.

BishopAccountability.org, a victim advocacy group, obtained the more than 60 documents and depositions involving these officials.

“I have never seen such detailed and frequent notice received by the priest’s superiors, so many ‘directives’ regarding the priest’s future behavior, and so much evidence presented to his superiors that those directives were being violated, without the priest being removed from ministry,” Terence McKiernan, the group’s president, told the Times.

The most potentially damning revelations from BishopAccountability.org’s analysis came from Br. Ricardo Palacio, then-director of the Christian Brother Retreat House in St. Helena, Calif. Palacio reported to Wild in February 1991 that McGuire had been traveling with a “16- or 17-year-old boy from Anchorage since January.”

Other than questioning, Wild conducted no further investigation about McGuire, the website said. Wild said that was the first conversation he had had with McGuire about any such situations. Palacio later testified that there had been “other reports of this kind of stuff” with McGuire.

Wild later established a set of “guidelines” to resolve McGuire’s behavior. Wild testified that evidence of McGuire’s conduct was “ambiguous,” and while this was a “serious situation,” Wild said for McGuire, “we didn’t have fire, but we had smoke.”

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for abuse victims, staged a press conference outside Zilber Hall on Wednesday morning. They attempted to deliver a letter to Wild, making a series of requests.

Specifically, SNAP called on Wild to publicly apologize to McGuire’s victims for not removing him from the priesthood, provide a detailed account of involvement and join victims/survivors in insisting the Jesuits create a public registry with substantiated reports of sexual abuse of children.

SNAP Midwest director Peter Isely was making a return visit to Milwaukee after also coming here recently to discuss another Jesuit priest, the Rev. Perry Robinson, being removed from the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb. Robinson was accused of engaging in inappropriate conduct with a Marquette University High School student in the early 1980s.

“The Jesuits misled and misinformed that parish,” Isely said, referring to Robinson’s former church in Nebraska.

Isely called Wild, along with Archbishop Jerome Listecki, one of the most important Catholic figures in the Milwaukee community.

“It’s with considerable disappointment and sadness we’re here today,” Isely said.

Isely said Wild inherited one of the world’s most “dangerous” priests in 1985. Isely said Wild already had “a stack of substantiated reports” against McGuire, who had been fired several times, including from the University of San Francisco. But during his tenure in Chicago, McGuire remained in ministry and reportedly continued to sexually abuse minors “under Wild’s watch.”

While it doesn’t mean Wild specifically knew about each of these cases, Isely wondered why he didn’t take “minimum steps” to prevent more alleged abuse.

“Wild did nothing,” Isely said. “He suggested (McGuire) be ‘prudent.’”

Marquette issued a statement responding to the SNAP press conference. Without going into specifics, the university said this happened prior to Wild’s tenure at Marquette and directed further inquiries to the Chicago province.

Jeremy Langford, communications director for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus, forwarded a statement from the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, the provincial. Kesicki said the province would not comment on legal proceedings concerning McGuire, but he did have some serious points.

Kesicki emphasized the province is sorry, but remains vigilant in acting on policies enforced since 2007 in response to the McGuire case.

“We also want to say again that we are painfully aware that in the past we did not do enough to prevent abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and that we made mistakes by thinking that restrictive measures we undertook with regard to Donald McGuire would be effective,” the statement read. “More important, we failed to listen to those who came forward and to meet their courage in dealing with Donald McGuire as we should have.

“Our sorrow for past actions or inactions is profound, and this sorrow guides us to what we, as educators and as ministers, must do.”

Next Monday and Tuesday, the Marquette Law School will host the “Harm, Hope, and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal” conference, which could further discussion of the issue.

Jeff Engel contributed to this report.