Two priests who in the 1970s and 1980s were assigned to Mater Christi Parish in North Riverside were among the nearly 400 Catholic clergy in Illinois identified as having been accused of sexual misconduct in a report issued by a Minnesota-based law firm on March 20 in Chicago.
The report, issued by Jeff Anderson & Associates, names priests who they say have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct in dioceses throughout the state, including Chicago, Joliet, Belleville, Rockford and Springfield.
“We’ve chosen to reveal this information because the Catholic bishops and the religious orders who are in charge and have this information and hold it secret have chosen to conceal it,” Anderson said at a press conference on March 20 at the Marriott Residence Inn in downtown Chicago. “We have chosen to reveal it.”
In addition to containing the names of 395 clergy, the report includes their photos and lists where they were assigned. Many of those listed in the report have been named previously and are listed in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s List of Clergy with Substantiated Allegations.
In a statement issued in response to the report, the Archdiocese of Chicago defended its actions, saying it “reports all allegations to the civil authorities, regardless of the date of the alleged abuse, whether the priest is a diocesan priest or religious order priest, and whether the priest is alive or dead.”
The archdiocese stated that its Independent Review Board, which was established in 1993, conducts its own investigation after civil authorities have completed their investigations. That board “is the primary adviser to the archbishop on issues of risk to children and fitness for ministry.”
In their statement, archdiocesan officials also accused Anderson & Associates of conflating “people who have been accused, but may be innocent, with those who have substantiated allegations against them.”
Among those listed in Anderson & Associates’ report are the Rev. Thomas Carroll Crosby and Rev. Michael Weston, both of whom served as associates at Mater Christi Church and whose assignments overlapped at the North Riverside parish.
The archdiocese added Crosby’s name to its List of Clergy with Substantiated Allegations in November 2018. Weston’s name has been on the list since 2014, though his connection to Mater Christi was not publicly available at that time.
In 2014, the Landmark reported the names of five priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct who were connected to parishes in Brookfield, LaGrange Park and North Riverside.
Those priests were Russell Romano, St. Barbara Parish (1980-91); David Braun, Mater Christi (1990-92); John Hefferan, St. Louise de Marillac (1956-62); Joseph Fitzharris, St. Louise de Marillac (1962-67) and Michael Hogan, St. Barbara (1984-92).
The circumstances that led to those priests being removed from ministry, often after years of being shuffled around the diocese after allegations first were reported, were documented in thousands of pages of records released that year by the Archdiocese of Chicago to settle a lawsuit filed by Anderson & Associates on behalf of sexual abuse victims.
Crosby served at Mater Christi from 1975 to 1982. Documents related to allegations against Crosby are not publicly available at this time. He was ordained a priest in 1949 and spent 22 years at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago before being placed at Mater Christi. He retired upon completion of that assignment and died in 1987.
Weston was assigned to Mater Christi Parish from 1981 to 1986, after he was first accused of sexual misconduct in the late 1970s, according to documents released by the archdiocese in 2014.
Immediately prior to his assignment at Mater Christi, Weston was at St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park from 1977-81. While there, according to archdiocesan documents, the first allegations of sexual misconduct against Weston surfaced.
In 2003, the mother of a survivor of Weston’s alleged abuse approached the archdiocese to inform officials of allegations she’d made against Weston to an associate pastor at St. Julie Billiart in the late 1970s.
The documents indicate that the associate told a superior at the parish, who “didn’t want to hear about it” and informed the associate that nothing would be done “unless there were ‘pictures [evidence of Fr. Weston sexually abusing] the victim.'”
It’s unclear if the archdiocese confronted Weston about the allegations in the 1970s or if St. Julie Billiart officials informed the archdiocese. But later documents seem to imply it.
While Weston was at Mater Christi, the archdiocese’s Vicar for Priests, jotted down notes from a conversation he’d had with Mater Christi’s pastor, Father Tom Kaveny, in April 1984. Church officials clearly were concerned about Weston’s behavior.
The vicar wrote that Kaveny believed that “Mike [Weston] is doing well with the teens. Tom doesn’t think there is cause for alarm.” Kaveny also told him that “we will have a parish forum soon to surface needs. Perhaps something will surface about Mike.”
In 1988, Weston was transferred out of state to St. Thomas More Catholic Student Parish in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1992, an allegation of abuse from that assignment was reported, and that Weston “faced up to it immediately.”
Weston resigned from ministry in 1993 and was laicized in 2009, when the archdiocese was investigating an allegation that Weston had sexually abused a child between the ages of 5 and 7. The timeframe and place of that alleged offense is unknown.