CHICAGO (CBS) — The first lawsuit was filed late Monday afternoon accusing the Rev. John Smyth, the disgraced now-deceased longtime leader of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards first exposed this story months ago with his 2 Investigative team. We did a seven-minute investigative piece on Friday night, and now, an 18-page claim has been filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago about the conduct of the Father Smyth.
Numerous men have accused Smyth of sexually abusing them when they were children. The lawsuit was brought out by one of the biggest names, who for decades has dogged the Catholic Church.
“I and my firm was the first in America to bring a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic hierarchy,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, of St. Paul, Minnesota-based Jeff Anderson and Associates. “We have brought suit against every Catholic bishop in America.”
Now, Anderson is representing the first alleged victim of Smyth’s to sue. That man, Clarence E. George Jr., has come forward using his own name.
“Maryville Academy and the serial predation by Father Smyth is something has been on my radar for some time,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Smyth has been on his radar for eight years.
Smyth was a captivating figure. He was a star on the University of Notre Dame’s basketball team and selected by St. Louis in the 1957 NBA draft. He chose the priesthood instead. He was assigned to Maryville after ordination in 1962 and became its executive director in 1970 — a position he held until it was shuttered in 2004.
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Smyth died in April, after being removed from public ministry by the church. At his funeral, there was a standing ovation.
But a 9-foot bronze statue in Smyth’s honor at Maryville Academy mysteriously disappeared. CBS 2 has since learned the statue was taken by Smyth’s foundation — without authorization.
Now, there are more than a dozen accusers.
“The thing that is so striking about the patterns and practices employed by Smyth is that these kids were already so vulnerable,” Anderson said.
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All the victims who have come forward so far were wards of the state.
George had been taken by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from his home as a child, and was later placed by the state at Maryville.
The lawsuit said victim George was happy at first to be placed at Maryville, where he was involved in golf, basketball, and field trips. The lawsuit also noted that Smyth made himself available to talk to Maryville residents, and George came to revere and trust Smyth “as a priest and authority figure at Maryville, and a male role model.”
But about seven months into George’s time at Maryville, Smyth began sexually abusing George, the lawsuit alleged.
“It was both oral and penetration,” said George, whom we identified as “Matt” earlier in our investigations.
The suit says Smyth then used it as a bargaining chip.
“After it happened, I was able to go back home on the weekends,” George said.
He said Smyth had sex with him, and then he was given privileges to go home – which he had not had prior to the abuse.
George he was so determined to get answers from DCFS on his case that he went to a satellite office.
“So when I showed up, they called the police,” he said.
A report said a staffer complained that George was combative. Nothing came of the complaint.
The suit says the Archdiocese “should have known of sexually abusive conduct.”
Attorney Anderson has created a nationally-recognized 180-page catalog of troubled priests. On page 46 is the Rev. Norbert Maday, over whom Anderson first sued the Archdiocese over in the 1980s.
Maday eventually served 13 years in a lockup in Wisconsin after being convicted in 1994 of molesting two altar boys at a church outing in that state. He died a registered sex offender just months ago.
Anderson believes this will be the first of many complaints against Smyth. Smyth’s supporters are still adamant that he was a saint among men, but a growing group of men claim otherwise.
Edwards noted to Anderson that some of Smyth’s supporters would say the lawsuit targets a dead man that did nothing but good work. Not so, Anderson says.
“When he was the alive, the harm and the damage and the destruction that he caused is alive and evergreen in every single one of those kids,” Anderson said.
The lawsuit demands judgment against the Archdiocese “in an amount in excess of the jurisdictional limits of this Court,” but did not specify a dollar amount.
Anderson will be in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit at a news conference.
The Archdiocese said it does not comment on pending lawsuits.