Diocese of Chicago settles two sexual abuse lawsuits

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The Diocese of Chicago has recently reached settlements in two civil suits involving allegations of child sex abuse against former priests, one of whom was deposed and one who has died.

One suit concerned allegations against Richard Kearney, former rector of St. Bride’s, Oregon and Annunciation, Gurnee, who was deposed by then-Bishop Frank T. Griswold in 1991. Kearney pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse

in 1991, and was sentenced to four years in jail. The anonymous plaintiff, who came forward in early 2019, alleged Kearney sexually abused him in the late 1980s.

In October, the diocese and the Diocese of Western New York reached a settlement with a man who claimed to have been abused by the late Rev. Donald Oxford, who died in 1968. Oxford served at the Church of the Epiphany in Chicago from April 1958 to September 1962. Epiphany closed in 2011.

Oxford had previously served in Western New York, his sponsoring diocese, and later served in the Dioceses of New York and Long Island. The Diocese of New York remains party to the suit the Dioceses of Chicago and Western New York settled, while the Diocese of Long Island is involved in separate litigation involving allegations against Oxford.

“We grieve every instance of abuse, and in the decades since the events alleged in these
suits, our diocese has committed itself to ever more rigorous sexual abuse
prevention training, reporting, and discipline,” said the Rev. Anne Jolly, chair of the Standing Committee. “I hope these settlements offer some measure of healing to those who came to us with their grief and pain.”

If you need to make a confidential report about abuse or harassment that has happened within the church, please email Terri Bays, the intake officer for disciplinary matters, or call her at 574.233.6489. You can also make a confidential report of abuse to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Service’s Child Abuse Hotline at 800-25-ABUSE.