Parishioners of Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Church in suburban Winnetka Thursday said they were “heartbroken” their priest had resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct with a teenager more than 25 years ago.
Church officials said Rev. Robert Kealy was living in “a restricted, monitored setting.”
Kealy, 55, a high-ranking canon lawyer who founded a review board to deal with allegations of sexual abuse against clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, was chancellor of the archdiocese for seven years under late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
“Father Kealy submitted his resignation following allegations that he engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct with a minor teenager more than 25 years ago when he served as an associate pastor at St. Germaine Parish in Oak Lawn,” a letter to parishioners signed by Auxiliary Bishop Edwin Conway said.
Wednesday’s letter said Kealy’s resignation was prompted by new information recently received by the independent Professional Fitness Review Board. Kealy was associate pastor at St. Germaine — the patron saint of abused children –from 1972 to 1977.
He was one of three priests on the nine-member board he helped create in 1992 to deal with allegations of sexual abuse.
Parishioners said charges of inappropriate behavior by another priest were a shocking betrayal to the faithful. “I was heartbroken,” said a long-time parishioner. “It’s very, very sad.”
The allegations against Kealy were received early last summer — the first case to publicly surface since the pedophile priest scandal rocked the Boston archdiocese in January.
The Boston archdiocese, the largest of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States, this month agreed to pay up to $30 million to 86 plaintiffs to settle molestation charges against a priest who may have abused more than 130 children over 30 years.
The last Chicago priest prosecuted for sexually abusing a minor, Rev. Ralph Strand of St. Francis, was sentenced to four years in prison in 1995 for incidents that occurred two years earlier.
The Archdiocese said it had investigated about 75 complaints against priests since adopting a detailed policy for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse. Fewer than 12 cases were substantiated and all but four of the accused priests had either left the priesthood or died.
Legal experts said Kealy may not face prosecution because the statute of limitations for sex crimes had expired under Illinois law. Kealy resigned Tuesday, days after Paul John Paul II called sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church a scandal that had cast a “dark shadow on all priests.”