A 76-year-old Catholic Priest from Joliet was indicted by a Will County Grand Jury Thursday for the alleged sexual abuse of two teen brothers in 1996 and 1999.
Fr. Louis Rogge, a priest of the Carmelite Order, turned himself in to police Thursday.
Rogge posted $4,000 bail on a $40,000 bond and was released.
According to Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, this is the first case of sexual abuse involving a Catholic priest to be charged in Will County since the issue of sexual abuse by priests became a national scandal in 2002.
Rogge was indicted on four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse as a result of his alleged fondling of the boys. All of the counts are Class 2 felonies that carry a prison sentence of 3 to 7 years upon conviction.
Rogge was a longtime family friend and a spiritual advisor to both teenagers, Glasgow said in a statement released midday Thursday.
Both of the youths were 15-years-old at the time of the alleged abuse. The first incident is alleged to have occurred in the summer of 1996, and the second is claimed by the victim's family to have happened in the summer of 1999.
The indictments are the result of an investigation by the Will County State's Attorney's Office that began when family members of the victims brought the allegations to the attention of the state's attorney.
"Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy must be thoroughly investigated, appropriately charged and prosecuted aggressively," Glasgow said, adding, "Priests and other clergy members hold positions of the highest level of respect and trust in our community. They must be held strictly accountable when that trust is violated. We teach our children to hold priests in the highest regard, and that, combined with a child's inherently trusting nature, makes their victimization truly a moral outrage."
According to Fr. John Welch, spokesman for the Most Pure Hearted Mary Province of the Carmelites in Darien, Rogge was removed from public ministry since 2002 when the order found out about his 1974 sexual molestation conviction in Athens, Ga.
Since then he's been assigned to work in the order's archives and has no contact with the public.
Welch said the Carmelites first became aware of the families' allegations in 2005.
"We take it very seriously because of what we've leaned the last few years," said Welch, a reference to the sexual molestation by clergy which captured headlines just four years ago.
"We're as concerned for the safety of these young people as we should be. We take it very seriously and are cooperating fully with the authorities.
"We've reached out to the victims and their families and offered counseling and we just hope there's a just resolution for it ... that it lends itself to whatever healing might be needed," said Welch.
Welch noted that the order notified the church authorities and the Will County State's attorney's office when the family came forward with new allegations about Rogge.
The state's attorney's office secured the indictments based upon the current statute of limitations in Illinois. Under current law, prosecutors may file sexual abuse charges up to 20 years after the victim has reached the age of 18.
The statute of limitations was more restrictive in the 1990s, when the sexual abuse against these two victims is alleged to have occurred. The General Assembly, however, expanded the statute of limitations several times in recent years.
"Our authority to prosecute this case is a miracle of sorts," Glasgow said. "The statute of limitations was about to expire in one of these cases, but the General Assembly came through in the 11th hour with an amendment that gave the victim additional time to report the abuse. It was a critical change in the law that enabled us to file these charges."
Glasgow says the incident is not Rogge's first brush with the law over the sexual abuse of children. Rogge had pleaded guilty to charges of child molestation in Athens, Georgia in 1974 and was placed on six years probation.
"Despite his past record, we have these allegations of further sexual abuse decades later," Glasgow said. "We need to make certain that no clergy member can use his position to gain access to our children for inappropriate purposes."
Welch said that no matter the outcome of this latest case, Rogge's earlier conviction is enough to ensure he'll not be allowed to again assume a public ministry.