Revisiting Diocesan Files on Clergy Sexual Abuse in Chicago

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In December 2018, then-Bishop Jeffrey Lee wrote to the people of the diocese about Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s recently released report, which concluded that the Roman Catholic Church in Illinois had failed to conduct appropriate investigations into numerous complaints of sexual abuse by clergy.

“The Episcopal Church is not immune to sexual abuse by clergy and other church leaders,” Bishop Lee wrote. A few months later, the diocese undertook a review of its archives to determine whether there were historic cases of sexual abuse that had not been properly disclosed at the time they occurred. That review has continued since the bishop’s departure under the supervision of the Standing Committee and the diocesan staff, and today, as part of this process, the diocese is re-releasing the names of four former priests who were convicted of, or plead guilty to, sexually abusing children in order to create a public historical record. The men, listed alphabetically are:

  1. Kenneth Behrel, who was charged in April 2002 with sexual abusing a student at St. James School in Hagerstown, Maryland where he was chaplain from 1983 to 1986. He was later charged with abusing another student in a separate case. Behrel was canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago during his tenure at St. James, and was serving as rector of St. Andrew’s, Grayslake when he was arrested. He was convicted and sentenced to two 12-year prison terms. One of the convictions was later overturned. He was deposed from the priesthood in 2001.
  2. Richard Kearney, who was convicted of abusing two boys in March 1991 and sentenced to four years imprisonment. He had most recently been rector at the Church of the Annunciation in Gurnee, but the original complaint was filed by a former parishioner from St. Bride’s, Oregon. Kearney was deposed from the priesthood in March 1991. The diocese recently settled a civil lawsuit filed by an anonymous plaintiff who came forward in 2019.  (Read about that settlement and another involving a priest who is now dead on the website.)
  3. Richard Pervo pleaded guilty to possession and dissemination of child pornography in May 2001, and was sentenced to one year in prison and eight years of probation. He was teaching at the University of Minnesota when charges were filed, but was canonically resident in the diocese. He had previously taught at Seabury Western Seminary in Evanston from 1975 to 1999. He left the diocese in 1999, was deposed from the priesthood in 2002, and died in 2017.
  4. Curtis Williams: pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse in 1986. He had most recently been as rector at St. John’s, Lockport. He was sentenced to four years in prison and deposed from the priesthood in June 1987.

All four cases were disclosed by the diocese and covered in the media at the time they were adjudicated.

“The diocese aggressively investigates every allegation of sexual abuse against its clergy,” said the Rev. Anne Jolly, president of the Standing Committee, which is currently the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese. “When these allegations are credible, we disclose them in real time. It is our Christian duty to be transparent in these matters. We have also committed ourselves in recent decades to increasingly effective sexual abuse prevention training programs detailed on our website.”

The clergy disciplinary process in the Episcopal Church includes laypeople as well as clergy and bishops. It is known in the church as the Title IV process, after the section of the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons where it is detailed. Learn more about it on this website.

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.