Former South Side pastor accused of abuse ousted from priesthood

Vatican decree is latest step in case stemming from 1994 charges

Chicago Tribune/October 28, 2009

Punished, forgiven, then punished again.

The 15-year saga of a South Side priest expelled from public ministry, reinstated, then removed again ended this week with his permanent ouster from the priesthood.

John Calicott, the former pastor of Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, received word earlier this month that he is no longer a member of the clergy, the Archdiocese of Chicago said Tuesday, citing a decree from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Vatican decree caps an arduous and circuitous journey since allegations first surfaced in 1994 that Calicott abused two teenagers during his first assignment at St. Ailbe Catholic Church on the city's South Side.

"We feel it's a vindication that they finally acknowledged what we are saying is the truth," said Fred Arceneaux, now 46, one of the boys allegedly abused by Calicott. Calicott, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, was initially placed on leave in April 1994 when Arceneaux and David Lasley came forward with sexual abuse allegations dating to 1976. At the time of the allegations, Calicott admitted to "misconduct," but called it isolated and insisted and he was not a threat to children.

A year later, after parishioners pleaded for Calicott's return, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin made an exception to his policy barring priests removed for sexual misconduct with minors from returning to parish ministry. He cited two psychological evaluations that said Calicott posed "no significant risk to children" if he continued therapy.

But in 2002, America's bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy that ordered the removal of all priests from ministry for a single credible allegation of sexual abuse. Cardinal Francis George removed Calicott again.

Two years later, Holy Angels invited Calicott to the parish school to lecture students on issues including sexuality. He also lived part time at the rectory despite orders from George to live at Mundelein Seminary. George rebuked him and petitioned the Vatican for a speedy canonical trial to determine Calicott's status as a priest.

During his deposition, Calicott denied the allegations. But after a review by a three-judge panel and a second review at Calicott's request, he was removed.

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