Area priest accused of abuse 30, 2004
By Steve Arney

Bloomington -- A 36-year-old man has accused a high-ranking area priest of abusing him while the priest was an assistant pastor in 1979 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bloomington.

Accused is Monsignor Thomas Miller, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria and the top clergyman at Notre Dame High School and his parish's elementary school, both in Peoria.

On Thursday, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky placed Miller on administrative leave and made the allegation public. Jenky said Miller "denied key elements of the allegations and admitted others."

The bishop wasn't more specific.

Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, an aide to Jenky, told the Associated Press that Miller is staying with friends in northern Illinois. Miller could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, the diocese office notified Miller of the charge and convened its Diocesan Review Commission, which has eight lay members and four members of clergy.

Jenky stated Thursday, "They (review board members) advised me that on the basis of what they had heard, the allegations seemed credible."

Miller is a 53-year-old Streator native. He was ordained in 1979 and served his first assignment at Holy Trinity, from 1979 to 1983. After serving there, he was transferred to Schlarman High School in Danville, then to St. Bernard Parish in Peoria.

He has served for the past 10 years at St. Vincent de Paul.

Jenky said Miller is "loved and respected" by those he served but that the actions taken by the bishop's office were necessary in the church's campaign to protect children.

Zero-tolerance policy

Jenky became bishop of Peoria in 2002 and almost immediately removed eight priests accused of sexual abuse.

He cites a zero-tolerance policy in responding to credible allegations, and last week the bishop fired Gerald Rashid as dean, coach and teacher at Notre Dame High School under that policy.

Jenky, said Rashid, who is not a priest, knowingly allowed an adult to participate in activities with minors even though the state had substantiated child-abuse claims against him.

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