Priest who molested teen returns

Cardinal had said 'he won't be coming back to Chicago'

Chicago Sun-Times/October 18, 2008

A Roman Catholic priest from out of state who pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy and was barred by the Vatican last month from presenting himself as a priest has resumed a consulting post here with a publishing arm of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Rev. Kenneth J. Martin, from the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., "won't be coming back to Chicago, obviously," Cardinal Francis George said in 2003.

That was in response to reports in the Chicago Sun-Times that Martin had been working as a consultant for Liturgy Training Publications on the Northwest Side since May 2002 and, while in Chicago, regularly staying at the cardinal's Gold Coast mansion despite having pleaded guilty in December 2001 to sexually abusing a former student of his from the teenager's sophomore year in 1977 until he was a senior, in 1980.

Taught in Baltimore

Martin, now 63, was not yet a priest at the time. He was teaching at the school the boy attended -- Loyola Blakefield Catholic High School in suburban Baltimore.

Liturgy Training Publications is a not-for-profit publishing company owned by the Chicago Archdiocese with offices at 1800 N. Hermitage, next to St. Mary of the Angels elementary school.

Martin, who was initially removed from ministry in Delaware in 2001, didn't return to work in Chicago until last year, according to John Thomas, Liturgy Training Publications' director. "From '03 to '07, he wasn't here at all at the offices," Thomas said.

But Martin, a Spanish-language liturgy expert, continued to be employed as an "off-site liturgy consultant" who "edits and reviews liturgical texts and consults with LTP's director about liturgical publications," and also does translation work, according to the archdiocese.

Asked how often Martin returned to work in Chicago, Susan Burritt, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said he "conducts his responsibilities by e-mail and phone and has visited the LTP office in Chicago twice in 2008."

LTP's Thomas said those two visits were the only times that Martin, who now lives in New Jersey, was in the Chicago office. Thomas said they were "just overnights" and that he and Martin "met at other points. Sometimes, I met with him in New Jersey."

In a later e-mail, the archdiocese amended that account, saying: "From June 2007 until July 2008, Martin attended meetings at LTP on seven occasions. Martin did not stay at any archdiocesan location.

"Martin has never worked full-time on-site," according to that statement, which also said that, in addition to Thomas, other staffers with the publishing company had met "offsite" with Martin "at least quarterly from 2003 until 2007." Old acquaintance

In response to a request for an interview with the cardinal, the archdiocese instead offered a written statement quoting George as saying that, in February 2003, he told Martin "he could not come back to Chicago and present himself as a priest, nor could he stay at my residence. I believe that any work he has done in translating texts or as an editorial consultant was carried out under those conditions."

Martin and George know each other from their work with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to Burritt. The cardinal "knew Ken Martin when Martin was on the staff of the [bishops group] in Washington, D.C.," she said.

The group lists Martin as having been associate director of its Secretariat for the Liturgy from December 2000 until June 30, 2001 -- four days after his arrest in Baltimore County, Md., in the sex-abuse case. George, long involved with the organization, has been its president since November 2007.

Thomas said "suggestions for who could help fill [Martin's] role came from many sources," including the cardinal.

Martin began consulting for the Chicago Archdiocese publishing company and staying at the cardinal's mansion on North State Parkway about one week a month in spring 2002, as the American Catholic church struggled to deal with the worst clergy sex-abuse scandal it has faced. At the time, George said Martin "is doing a certain limited job here, and he's doing it well."

In the criminal case, the victim, who is now in his 40s, asked that Martin not get jail time. "I just wanted to make sure he pleaded guilty and that nothing like that would happen to anyone else," he said in a 2003 interview.

In a plea deal, Martin got three to five years of unsupervised probation. Eventually, his conviction was expunged.

But Martin "has been removed from ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington, and he has been barred from presenting himself as a priest," said Bob Krebs, communications director for the Delaware diocese.

Krebs said there had been "an understanding" that Martin would not present himself as a priest but that it recently came to the diocese's attention that, "in some circumstances and with some audiences," Martin had done just that. Krebs said he didn't know where, but that "it wasn't in Wilmington, it was elsewhere."

The Vatican formally barred Martin from presenting himself as a priest last month, Krebs said.

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