CHICAGO (CBS) — Who was Father John P. Smyth? Was he the portrait of piety or a pedophile priest? It’s become a great debate.
The Archdiocese removed him from priesthood, yet the Department of Children and Family Services found the case against Smyth unfounded.
And then there is the case of Smyth’s towering and vanishing statue.
Smyth could have potentially gone to the NBA and could have been a star.
“Why would you do that unless you were looking for a place to hide?” said attorney Jeanine Stevens, who represented a dozen alleged Smyth victims.
He died in April to accolades despite his priestly collar being removed from his neck.
Smyth had a 9-foot tall monument to his monumental work at Maryville.
So was he an icon or a con?
“It was both oral and penetration,” said Matt, an alleged victim.
“When I went home on the weekend, it was blood in my stool,” said alleged victim Mark.
“He put his finger in my rectum,” said Sam, a third alleged victim. “I just thank God I didn’t act out on what I thought, you know? I wanted to kill him. Absolutely.”
Victim three actually told his wife decades ago that a priest at Maryville did terrible things to him.
“When he came on TV, he was like, ‘That’s him. That’s the guy,'” said victim three’s wife.
Smyth’s perfected patina began to crack in March of 2018 with two allegations of sexual misconduct. The Archdiocese alerted DCFS and the Cook County State’s Attorney.
Unbeknownst to us until now, four months after the first allegation popped, Smyth was placed on limited ministry. In December, he was removed. It wasn’t until early 2019 that it was disclosed to the public.
“When the Diocese removed an ailing Smyth from ministry, do you think that was an admission that they knew something had happened?” CBS 2’s Brad Edwards asked Stevens.
“Without a doubt,” she responded.
Nine of the 12 alleged victims she’s represented came forward before Smyth died. It’s believed all nine were DCFS kids.
In March 2018 DCFS knew of at least one alleged Father Smyth victim.
As Smyth became ill, DCFS did nothing. It took 10 months to finally begin its 60-day investigation. That turned into 120 days and more.
DCFS found the case “unfounded.”
“The case is now closed,” a spokesperson said.
However, unfounded does not mean untrue. Unfounded is DCFS mumbo jumbo.
DCFS’s focus was whether Smyth posed a danger to children. He was dead, so he didn’t. No threat equals unfounded.
Stevens and the alleged victims who spoke with CBS 2’s Edwards said they were never interviewed by DCFS.
Edwards reached out to DCFS’ communications flak on Aug. 21 asking for an interview. He was ignored.
A week later he wrote again and was again ignored.
Then Sept. 4 he pointed out he had waited two weeks. He was ignored.
“I have been calling repeatedly to get a face-to-face meeting set up with acting director Smith,” Matt said.
Marc D. Smith was appointed acting director by Gov. JB Pritzker to clean up DCFS.
Stonewalled, Matt went to a satellite DCFS office.
“So when I showed up on the next day, they called the police,” he said.
The police report says officers “responded to … the Department of Children and Family Services … He (Matt) stated he arrived at DCFS in an effort to obtain information.”
“I believe they want to fix things,” Matt said of DCFS.
“I disagree with him,” said Stevens. “I don’t think that DCFS really wants to fix the system.”
Now the Archdiocese has saddled Smyth claimants with five separate questionnaires, totaling 23 pages.
“Sexual abuse of a child by a man of God is like evil being introduced,” said Stevens.
“It’s like I’m living a double life,” said Mark.
Sam said he struggled with drugs and alcohol.
“Cocaine, heroin,” he said. “To this day.”
Alleged victim one, Matt, like many, struggles to even reconcile what truly happened. He never calls it rape or sexual assault.
“That’s interesting,” he said. “I think that just as a man, it kind of helps me protect, maybe, a certain image.”
“It’s got to come down,” Stevens said of the Smyth statue. “It absolutely must come down.”
“It should be removed,” said Matt. “It represents the complete opposite of what I think Maryville was intended to stand for.”
“It’s like when they tore that Saddam Hussein statue down,” Sam said. “Put a rope around it and bring it down.”
The statue is now gone but not the monument or the memory — and not the now-grown men.
So where is that statue?
Maryville leadership said it didn’t know and didn’t give anyone the OK to remove it.
And the Archdiocese didn’t know and also didn’t authorize its removal.
CBS 2 finally discovered Smyth’s Standing Tall Foundation removed it, apparently without permission, for repairs.
They vow it will stand again.
If that happens, CBS 2 will let you know where.