St. Scholastica Catholic Church pastor Gerald Riva’s sex crime comes to light

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Joliet Diocese says it was unaware of 1992 arrest, Catholic association mum on pastor of the year award Riva was to receive

mysuburbanlife.com (Chicago)

16 March 2012

By Dave Heitz, [email protected]

Woodridge Reporter

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The Rev. Gerald Riva accepts the “Outstanding Woodridge Citizen of the Year” award in December 2007.

The Rev. Gerald Riva has received many accolades during his long tenure at St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Woodridge, where he has served as pastor since 1999.

Among them is a 2007 Outstanding Citizen of the Year award from the Village of Woodridge. Then this winter he was named a “2012 Distinguished Pastor” by the National Catholic Education Association. He was one of only 10 pastors nationwide to win the award, which honors pastors who have given “outstanding support to Catholic elementary education.”

But according to court and police records, the 70-year-old Riva has a criminal past.

In 1992, Riva pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of public indecency after he grabbed the male genitals of a DuPage County Forest Preserve officer in a forest preserve in Winfield Township.

Police records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail the crime, which occurred about 11 a.m. Oct. 24, 1992.

According to police, an officer was “on plain clothed detail” when Riva, then 50 and pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Elmhurst, walked past him and into the woods at the West DuPage Woods Forest Preserve. The officer said he followed Riva into the forest before Riva said to him, “Look, there is a deer over there.”

“A conversation followed,” the officer wrote in the report “… As we spoke, Mr. Riva began to rub his genitals through his clothing. … twice Mr. Riva attempted to rub his penis against me. Mr. Riva then turned his back to me and with his left hand reached back and placed it on my genitals.”

The officer then placed Riva under arrest, according to the police report.

The officer, who no longer works with the forest preserve, does not specify the nature of the police detail he was on that day.

According to documents from the DuPage County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office, Riva pleaded guilty to one count of public indecency about one month after his arrest, on Nov. 23, 1992. Documents show Riva paid a fine, received one year of court supervision and had to complete community service as part of the guilty plea.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Joliet, which administers St. Scholastica, as well as churches and priests from DuPage and Will counties, said up until last week officials there were unaware of Riva’s nearly 20-year-old conviction.

Since it was notified, the diocese has launched an investigation into the matter, according to a spokesman.

“My understanding is that Fr. Riva paid a fine for this, and that was that,” spokesman Doug Delaney said this week. “The diocese was never aware of what happened.”

Delaney said he does not know the diocese’s policies of 20 years ago regarding priests who are convicted of crimes, or whether priests were required to inform the diocese of any criminal charges they faced.

Riva, who was reached by telephone earlier this week, would not comment on the matter, other than saying he wasn’t sure “why this is in question now, after 20 years.” He added he planned to speak with the Diocese of Joliet. Riva declined further comment when reached on Friday at the church. Other phone calls to church and school officials were not returned.

Riva is scheduled to retire from active priesthood on July 1 — one month to the day after St. Scholastica celebrates its 50th anniversary. His retirement was planned before the diocese learned of his public indecency conviction, Delaney said, adding that Riva notified the diocese of his pending retirement last fall.

As for the Distinguished Pastor award, it’s unclear if the National Catholic Education Association still plans to honor Riva this spring at its annual conference in Boston.

Robert Bimonte, executive director of the NCEA, declined to comment when informed of Riva’s criminal history. Bimonte also would not comment whether the organization would still give him the award.

A news release announcing Riva’s award from the NCEA was removed from the Diocese of Joliet’s website this week.

The Rev. Gerald Riva has received many accolades during his long tenure at St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Woodridge, where he has served as pastor since 1999.

Among them is a 2007 Outstanding Citizen of the Year award from the Village of Woodridge. Then this winter he was named a “2012 Distinguished Pastor” by the National Catholic Education Association. He was one of only 10 pastors nationwide to win the award, which honors pastors who have given “outstanding support to Catholic elementary education.”

But according to court and police records, the 70-year-old Riva has a criminal past.

In 1992, Riva pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of public indecency after he grabbed the male genitals of a DuPage County Forest Preserve officer in a forest preserve in Winfield Township.

Police records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail the crime, which occurred about 11 a.m. Oct. 24, 1992.

According to police, an officer was “on plain clothed detail” when Riva, then 50 and pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Elmhurst, walked past him and into the woods at the West DuPage Woods Forest Preserve. The officer said he followed Riva into the forest before Riva said to him, “Look, there is a deer over there.”

“A conversation followed,” the officer wrote in the report “… As we spoke, Mr. Riva began to rub his genitals through his clothing. … twice Mr. Riva attempted to rub his penis against me. Mr. Riva then turned his back to me and with his left hand reached back and placed it on my genitals.”

The officer then placed Riva under arrest, according to the police report.

The officer, who no longer works with the forest preserve, does not specify the nature of the police detail he was on that day.

According to documents from the DuPage County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office, Riva pleaded guilty to one count of public indecency about one month after his arrest, on Nov. 23, 1992. Documents show Riva paid a fine, received one year of court supervision and had to complete community service as part of the guilty plea.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Joliet, which administers St. Scholastica, as well as churches and priests from DuPage and Will counties, said up until last week officials there were unaware of Riva’s nearly 20-year-old conviction.

Since it was notified, the diocese has launched an investigation into the matter, according to a spokesman.

The spokesman also said Riva never reported the crime to the diocese.

“My understanding is that Fr. Riva paid a fine for this, and that was that,” spokesman Doug Delaney said this week. “The diocese was never aware of what happened.”

Delaney said he does not know the diocese’s policies of 20 years ago regarding priests who are convicted of crimes, or whether priests were required to inform the diocese of any criminal charges they faced.

Riva, who was reached by telephone earlier this week, would not comment on the matter, other than saying he wasn’t sure “why this is in question now, after 20 years.” He added he planned to speak with the Diocese of Joliet. Riva declined further comment when reached on Friday at the church. Other phone calls to church and school officials were not returned.

Riva is scheduled to retire from active priesthood on July 1 — one month to the day after St. Scholastica celebrates its 50th anniversary. His retirement was planned before the diocese learned of his public indecency conviction, Delaney said, adding that Riva notified the diocese of his pending retirement last fall.

As for the Distinguished Pastor award, it’s unclear if the National Catholic Education Association still plans to honor Riva this spring at its annual conference in Boston.

Robert Bimonte, executive director of the NCEA, declined to comment when informed of Riva’s criminal history. Bimonte also would not comment whether the organization would still give him the award.

A news release announcing Riva’s award from the NCEA was removed from the Diocese of Joliet’s website this week.

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SomeoneWhocares

How unfortunate. Not for the pastor, who beyond a crime he paid for 20 years ago, was a caring and amazing human being. I feel sorry for the people who leaked this story for their own personal gain. What a true example of being a forgiving Christian they are. For you, my friend, I pray for forgiveness, as we are all to be judged one day.

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What purpose did that serve
Shame on you for thinking this is newsworthy. Shame on your editor for agreeing.This was published to hurt and destroy.

You are just a one heck of a reporter, yesirree.

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MissHighAndMighty

News is news so I find no fault that this was published. I agree that Father Riva paid for his crime. To be honest I have seen worse things happen on the Metra and no one was arrested.

The true story behind this is a vindictive group of parents who went looking for anything they could find. And I suspect at least one gay Dad in the crowd; isn’t always those guys who are the most offended and make the most fuss. Should I make a list of how often they are caught in public restooms or with their beaus on the border? To this Dad I want to say it is OK to be gay ’cause God loves you and Jesus is there for you. Caring Catholics will be there for you but maybe not your fellow parents at St. Scholastic. They will be busy investigating you and finding pictures of you in a tutu at the Pride Parade.To this Dad and his faithful followers, we know who you are. You smell bit like a hater. OK, your stench is horrific. And St. Peter is waiting for you when you one day make it past purgatory. And he might be wearing glitter. Watch out and don’t hit your head on disco ball on the way to Hell.

BTW check out the Diocese of Joiliet and their track record. They are real winners aren’t they?

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msamom05

So let me get this straight this story is being posted about a great man for what purpose…..oh thats right out of spite and becuase of stupid people. This happened 20 years ago….good grief…he has done good for so many and touched so many people’s lives. I hope that you are happy and can live with the bad thing that you have done and can look your kids in the face everyday

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sarcasticone

The good he has done? I have had students there and for them to be investigating all week and not let the parents know just goes to show how the church and the administrators have lost all common sense in the last 5 years. My child will not be returning Monday, thank you Gail for letting everyone know something was happening and coming out.

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ambirth
I would really like to know the name of the person who leaked this story and what kind of a reporter would print such a story. Real hard hitting news..I don’t see you making it to the Tribune anytime soon. I have known Fr. Riva for most of my life and he is a wonderful and caring man, who has brought so much joy to our church. He started a fantastic music program at our church and directs musicals every year for the middle school students. He is always around if you need something and truly cares about everyone at our church. This was a spiteful story and I am surprised that any ‘accredited’ newspaper would print something that was obviously purely meant to be malicious. Fr. Riva is a good man and honestly this is a poorly written article that really makes no sense. Why couldn’t you let this poor man have his last 3 months at our church in peace. You have not only hurt Fr. Riva but our entire parish family.

4 Responses to St. Scholastica Catholic Church pastor Gerald Riva’s sex crime comes to light

  1. Sylvia says:

    I don’t know ….is it really possible that not a soul in the diocese knew about this? no one knew he had been arrested? or appeared in court, or was under court supervision, or was doing community service?

    Perhaps it is? If there was not a word of in the media back then, perhaps it is? I have trouble with that, but perhaps it is possible?

    No matter, Father Riva should not in any way shape or form be honoured by the National Catholic Education Association

  2. Spartan Alum says:

    Look, all– regardless of how you all feel about this story, the fact is that the Catholic Church, on orders from the USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) instituted the Safe Environment program in response to the reports of ALL the priests, religious and others in the church who abused vulnerable people. “ANY” conviction of a sex crime or moral turpitude is grounds for action. Any and all people who are involved in any way, shape or form with vulnerable populations (which includes the elderly and the disabled as well as children) must undergo screening, background checks, an interview, training, and provide references. This training and review process must be repeated yearly and applies to everyone, from priests to the lunch ladies in your child’s cafeteria, to the choir. It may well be that newer methods of uncovering prior convictions brought this to light. I knew Fr. Riva from my time at St. Francis HS, and was as shocked as anyone to recently learn of this transgression. However, the question MUST be asked… was this his first time, or just his first time getting caught? People who do these things seldom just do them once. And, did he only select adults as his targets, or did he go for minors as well? We will never know. All I know is this… my admiration and respect for Fr. Riva was shattered. He pleaded guilty to the charge of public indecency. It sounds like he got off light. He could have, and perhaps should have, faced additional charges of assault on a police officer for the grabbing maneuver– at the VERY least. But that might have been part of the plea bargain. Makes me so sad…

  3. Cathie says:

    He was a loyal friend of my family and also my teacher at St. Francis. Known him for over 40 years. He is a good man. He presided over my marriage and my Mom and Dads funeral masses. He is always a joy to talk to. Priests are not above mistakes. In my opinion he should be given all of the honors he DESERVES, WHICH IS EVERY SINGLE ONE. HE IS A FINE MAN.

    • D says:

      The catholic church will be left with no one soon.
      Who can live up to these moral standards today.
      Yes sin is sin. Yes the good Father committed a sin and was punished as is ti be expected.
      My understanding is that the One who said….go and sin no more…. forgave him and blessed him.
      It is my hope that a frail sinful human learned painfully about the dangers and wrongfullness of public acting out of sex.
      Sounds like he did and brought the joy of the gospel to many for decades to come.
      Can we get past this…please!

      Give me a repentant sinner over a self righteous Christian any day.

      God bless you Father and thankyou for your service.

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