Friday, February 18, 2005

Springfield Bishop Lucas Hires Team to Check Abuse Reports

Bishop George J. Lucas of the Roman Catholic diocese of Springfield, Ill., said Thursday that he had appointed an investigative team, headed by a former U.S. attorney, to look into allegations of sexual misconduct by the diocese's clergy.

A spokeswoman for the diocese, Kathie Sass, said the bishop's decision to form the panel came in the wake of an incident involving the diocese's former chancellor, the Rev. Eugene Costa. In December, Costa was found badly beaten in a Springfield park frequented by homosexual men.

"Recently, there have been allegations of gross misconduct against a number of priests of this diocese - indeed even one against me, which I know to be false," Lucas said Thursday.

Critics of the archdiocese took issue with Lucas' assertion that the investigative panel is independent.

"This panel is paid by Lucas and answers to Lucas," said Stephen G. Brady, head of a Petersburg, Ill.-based conservative organization called Roman Catholic Faithful. "There seems to be a conflict of interest here. There's no independence in this independent investigation."

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