Illinois inmate sues Holy See for alleged sexual abuse

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Vatican rejects claims of prisoner who says he was abused 50 years ago at Maryville Academy

8:54 p.m. CDT, October 12, 2011

By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter 

An Illinois prisoner has filed a lawsuit against the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Chicago, alleging sexual abuse by a former priest and other staff at Maryville Academy in the 1960s.

Charles Anderson, 60, now an inmate at Shawnee Correctional Center, alleges in the lawsuit that the Maryville priest called him to his office to punish him for playing with matches. Once in the priest’s office, Anderson claims, the priest sodomized him.

Anderson alerted the archdiocese of the allegation when reports surfaced of suicides and sexual misconduct at Maryville in 2002, the lawsuit says. He had landed there with his sisters after their alcoholic parents abandoned them in 1954 and St. Joseph Orphanage in Lisle, where they initially went to live, closed, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Anderson accuses another man at St. Joseph of sexual misconduct. It’s unclear if he was affiliated with a religious order.

But according to court documents, an investigation of the Maryville priest by the archdiocese yielded no reasonable cause to suspect him of abuse. He left the priesthood in 1971, church officials said.

Anderson is serving a sentence for armed robbery and will serve time in a federal prison after his release from the state penitentiary. His lawyer, Robert Holstein, said the suit is “an effort to fix his moral compass that was severely damaged” from the abuse by authority figures.

“He’s lived a life of crime most of his adult life,” Holstein said. “He would like to have something meaningful result from his life.”

He was encouraged by a court ruling two years ago that some victims’ advocates believe cleared the way for lawsuits against the Holy See if priests allegedly commit abuse while serving in a religious capacity.

“As time went on and the law developed, mainly with regard to the Holy See’s involvement, things changed a little bit,” Holstein said.

Jeffrey Lena, counsel to the Holy See in the U.S., said the lawsuit was baseless and “does not even merit a response.”

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