Church in Crises: He was only a 15 years old boy

Date Published: 09/12/2008
Publication: The National Herald

He was only 15 years old. He was a devoted alter boy. His whole family was very close to their church. Their parish priest was a charismatic man, one of the most respected priests in the country.

Now 31 years later, the 46-year-old man describes his efialti, his nightmare, the devastation he suffered at the hands of an apparently very sick man.

In a lawsuit filed in Chicago, the area where a crime allegedly took place, he alleges the same charismatic priest sexually abused him as a minor.

The details contained in the lawsuit against Nick Katinas, who was defrocked last year, would make anyone sick to their stomachs. And if true, they portray a sexual predator, a very depraved and perverted person.

Here, we need to remind everyone that nothing has been yet proven against the former priest, who served parishes in Olympia Fields, Illinois and Dallas, Texas for four decades before retiring two years ago. He should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, along with anyone else who has been accused of committing a crime.

But we also need to keep in mind that the 46-year-old man is the sixth person within the past year who has come forward to tell his story openly and unburden himself of long-suppressed anger and misplaced guilt. He is the sixth person who has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Katinas and the Church, accusing the disgraced former cleric of committing sexual abuse and the Church of dragging its feet for a long time when it should have stopped him.

As a reminder, the Archdiocese was finally forced to dismiss him from its ranks for legal reasons, as well as because of the public outcry.

In addition, more lawsuits are reportedly in the works against Mr. Katinas and the Church.

All in all, this man seems to have ruined the lives of many, the number of which we might never know.

We hope that Mr. Katinas will eventually deal with the betrayal of Christ and his sacred mission, and also with the shame and embarrassment he has brought about to our Church and community. We also strongly believe that, should he be found guilty, no punishment would be too severe, for he would have then committed one of the most heinous crimes: sexually abusing a child.

At the same time, however, we also need to ask ourselves: How could it be that not a single one of Mr. Katinas’ colleagues or higher-ups, during the 40-plus years that he had served as a priest, ever saw or heard anything about the atrocities he committed? How is that possible?

Unfortunately, there are plenty of indications at least that the “secret” was out, that word had gotten around, but to their eternal disgrace, no action was taken against this man, allowing him to, in effect, continue ruining the lives of so many other innocent boys.

Not all the priests are like Mr. Katinas, of course, and we shiver at the thought that a cloud of suspicion might cover all priests because of the alleged actions of this one ex-priest, or because of the action of some other individual priest.

But the way the Archdiocese’s mismanagement of this extremely serious case, from top to bottom, should become a case study at the Harvard Business School.

It looks to us as though that they have learned nothing from the immense moral and financial damage inflicted upon the Roman Catholic Church in America because of the revelation of massive sexual abuse scandals perpetrated by Catholic priests against young boys.

As far as we’re concerned, no case in memory is more serious in terms of its moral underpinning and more potentially threatening to the financial stability of the Church than this case.

Yet the Church neither takes firm action nor talks about it, hiding behind legalistic arguments.

What they should have done instead is be totally forthcoming; embrace the abused; offer them any moral and financial assistance available; issue apologies to the victims and the community; and work for the exemplary punishment of this man and other alleged perpetrators.

That they have so far failed to do any of the above, or at least part of the above, is not only perplexing, but profoundly worrisome as well.