‘We don’t want to be snitches,’ church official wrote
BY KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporter January 21, 2014 1:18PM
Russell L. Romano
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Updated: February 23, 2014 6:28AM
Former priest Russell Romano allegedly abused at least 13 boys between 1973 and 1991.
But even when the evidence against him seemed damning, church officials were conflicted about what they should do if more victims came forward. One even wrote, “We don’t want to be snitches,” newly released church documents show.
Romano, who has never been prosecuted, was quietly ordered by the archdiocese to stay away from children in 1986, after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in 1986 found “credible evidence” that he got children at Quigley Preparatory Seminary drunk, showed them pornographic movies and abused them.
His lenient treatment meant he was able to make a career as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor after he quit the active priesthood in 1991.
The Bolingbrook man only retired last year from Advocate Health Care last year, after victim advocates complained, according to published reports.
Documents released by the archdiocese show the soft touch church officials had when they learned of allegations of Romano’s abuse.
In one memo, written in 1985, Quigley Rector Rev. John Klein details concerns that Romano “liked the boys.”
When he confronted Romano about his habit of kissing and hugging boys, serving them alcohol and showing them pornography, “Russ immediately and without hesitation admitted that these (actions) showed poor judgement and they would stop immediately — that sincerely I should never worry about him doing any of this again.”
“I thanked him for his quick recognition of this, and he really seemed sincere — as if it had been something he had been thinking about and realizing was not too wise,” Klein wrote.
“Russ needs to be supported and loved as he tries to work on things; he appears to really be trying hard.”
Two years later, in 1987, Klein sought guidance from the archdiocese in how to handle any future allegations against Romano. “What should we report to the Vicar of Priests?” he wrote.
“We don’t want to be snitches, but most young men involved, even though they’ve left Quigley, will come to us rather than others.”
Romano, who had restrictions placed on his contact with children after 1986, married after he left the priesthood.
He and his wife wept in 2011 when he was confronted by the archdiocese with one of several new allegations of his prior abuse, according to the newly released records.
Making the latest allegation, one of his victims wrote in an email to the archdiocese, “This is my church and I won’t let these evil men win.
“I still want a place in the church and the opportunity to make it better.”