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Children nicknamed priest ‘Happy Hands’

Daniel Mark Holihan. Priest accused abuse.

Daniel Mark Holihan. Priest accused of abuse.

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Updated: February 23, 2014 6:22AM

The kids at Our Lady of the Snows in the 1980s called Rev. Daniel Mark Holihan “Happy Hands.”

But there was nothing happy about the sexual abuse he dished out to boys he plied with booze at his family’s cottage.

Now 83, Holihan escaped prosecution even though the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services found credible evidence that he abused 12 children.

The archdiocese paid an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit naming him in 2005.

Holihan, who got his nickname because of his suspiciously grabby horseplay, allegedly began abusing boys in 1968. Though restrictions were placed on his contact with kids after he was accused of abuse in 1986, he wasn’t removed from public ministry until 2002.

Records released this week show some church officials were conflicted about how to handle his case.

In 1990, after children at Our Lady of the Snows who had watched an educational police video about abuse came forward with allegations against Holihan, church leaders contacted DCFS.

But Vicar for Priests Raymond Goedert seemed to be at least as concerned about the fallout from the scandal as the plight of any victims, according to a memo he wrote at the time.

Noting that the parish’s pastor emeritus, Leo Kinsella, had reported that a Polish cleaner had previously claimed to have “discovered Mark [Holihan] in bed with a young boy,” Goedert wrote: “Leo’s concern now is that [the cleaner] is returning from Poland this Friday. When she finds out what is going on, she may blab and blow the whole thing up in our faces.”

Despite DCFS’ finding that there was credibke evidence of abuse, the Cook County State’s Attorney declined to prosecute Holihan, who was sent to minister to the elderly in nursing homes in an attempt to keep him away from children.

Cardinal Francis George in 2005 formally found that Holihan was an abuser.

Chafing under restrictions George placed on him, Holihan accepted a “modest compensation package” from the archdiocese to “laicize” himself in 2008.

He finally admitted “intimate relationships” with minors but continued to deny those relationships were in any way sexual, claiming the children enjoyed their time with him. He is still friendly with the boys, he said.

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