What happened in Springfield?
The Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has released a brief report (warning: PDF) from the Special Panel on Clergy Misconduct, convened by Bishop George Lucas to review the results of an investigation into allegations against priests in the diocese. (The investigation was limited to charges involving only adults, not minors.)
Lucas, who was installed in 1999, commissioned the report last year “amid a climate of increasing doubt and mistrust,” brought on by the 2004 assault on then-Chancellor Msgr. Eugene Costa, after he allegedly solicted his attackers in a park, and by Thomas Munoz’s later charge that Bishop Lucas had slept with him, five diocesan priests, and three seminarians. Munoz’s claims were deemed false by the panel, but Msgr. Costa has been removed from public ministry, and Lucas is taking canonical steps to make that suspension permanent.
The panel’s report indicates that the investigation results may be released in the near future. The diocese would do well to follow Chicago’s model and release this audit unedited and as soon as possible. Once released, the investigation may fill out the panel’s “particular concerns” regarding the last bishop of Springfield, Daniel Ryan.
Bishop Ryan engaged in sexual misconduct with adults and used his authority to conceal this misconduct. Although denied by Bishop Ryan, this behavior did occur and caused scandal in the Church by leading others to do evil. It resulted in feelings of hurt and anger, as well as thoughts of doubt and mistrust both in the Church as an institution and in its leaders. There is anecdotal evidence of local Catholics abandoning the faith as a result of that behavior. Bishop Ryan no longer resides in the diocese and no longer participates in public ministry.