The Archdiocese of Chicago ignored repeated warnings that the Rev. Robert Mayer was abusing children, moving him between parishes where he molested children for years, a new lawsuit alleges.
Four men, now aged 38 to 43, filed suit in Cook County against the archdiocese and Mayer on Tuesday seeking unspecified damages. Mayer, 67, left the priesthood after his 1992 conviction for abusing a 13-year-old girl.
The lawsuit depicts a priest whose entire career was steeped in sex. During his seminary days in the 1960s, it alleges, Mayer earned the nickname "Satan" and wrote his master's thesis on masturbation. As a parish priest, he functioned as a charismatic leader who gave kids alcohol and drugs, the suit alleges.
"Things started off casual: 'Hey, let's play basketball. Let's hang out.' And then his behavior became more and more inappropriate," said Brian Wolff, 39, who claims Mayer molested him in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Wolff said Mayer forced him and other altar boys at St. Mary parish in Lake Forest to "engage in deviant sexual behavior -- everything from oral sex to anal sex."
"It's affected my life for years," said Wolff, who said he has battled drug and alcohol problems as a result.
While Cardinal Francis George came under fire earlier this year in the wake of criminal charges against the Rev. Daniel McCormack, the latest claims date back to George's predecessors, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Cardinal John Cody.
"We would prefer to settle any claims like this out of court," said archdiocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer. "Mayer has not been a priest since 1994. . . . We acknowledged our shortcomings a long time ago and have taken steps to correct it."
Mayer could not be reached for comment.
Another plaintiff in the case, Edward Mazurek, said in a statement that Mayer created a "subculture of privileged altar boys," giving them alcohol and pornography. Mayer masturbated in front of groups of boys and molested them individually, Mazurek said.
He also took groups of boys to his house at Fox Lake, where he once tried to take off another boy's bathing suit, Mazurek said. When a civil lawsuit was filed over the incident, Mayer convinced Mazurek to lie at his deposition and in an affidavit, Mazurek said.
"The best way to describe Mayer is like a cult leader," he said.
Mayer started abusing Mazurek when he was 12, at St. Edna parish in Arlington Heights, the lawsuit states. Mayer's abuse of Mazurek allegedly lasted nearly 10 years.
Mayer served in seven parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago -- reassigned repeatedly despite complaints and suits about his behavior.
"I'm not aware of a case where the knowledge of the Archdiocese of Chicago was so clear cut," said lawyer Marc Pearlman.