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An ‘Open Secret’: Catholic Sexual Abuse in the Black Community

By Ashahed M. Muhammad (Part I of II)
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

CHICAGO ( – Files released by the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese show decades of systematic secrecy and protection of pedophile priests, however, for some victims of abuse, the nightmare continues and justice remains elusive.

David Nolan is 46-years-old. His harrowing tales of abuse began at 13 years of age as Father Victor Stewart, now deceased, used his authority and power to have sex with dozens of young boys at will, and seemingly without any fear of being punished.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference, Jan. 21, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is Attorney Marc Pearlman. (Photo Credit: AP/Wide World photos)

The Nolan tragedy provides almost a case study into how pedophile priests victimized the Black community.
In files released as part of a settlement in a sexual abuse case, the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese was clearly aware of many allegations of sexual abuse involving Fr. Stewart. Documents show victims reported Fr. Stewart and other priests were “part of a club that participated in pedophilia.”

Mr. Nolan said the church shuffled priests from parish to parish to protect its image, not children and families in the church. Church leaders knew all along abuse charges were true, he said. “I’ve continued to be abused over the years not only by the Chicago Archdiocese, but by our legal system. It destroyed my marriage because I didn’t have no recourse, I didn’t know how to deal with it, it destroyed my relationships with family, so now to hear that these documents are being released I’m saddened.

I’m dismayed. I’m disappointed because the church I grew up loving—when they had a chance to really display spirit and truth of Christ—they chose to persecute me and label me as a liar.”

David Nolan (Photo Credit: Tim 6X)

Fr. Stewart was considered a godfather to the many young boys with no role models or mentors. As a religious figure in a crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood, he was placed on a pedestal. Many of the young men from impoverished backgrounds enjoyed receiving gifts Fr. Stewart showered them with, new clothes, gym shoes and video games. Those gifts came with a price—inappropriate touching, sex, and a vow of secrecy.

From time to time, young boys would actually live at the rectory, and according to legal files and testimonies, the sexual abuse was an open secret. Not all of the victims were young teenagers. Some reported abuse beginning at age 16 or 17 and continuing until ages 20 or 21.

In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. (Photo Credit: AP/Wide World photos)

Mr. Nolan even tried to tell the Chicago police about the abuse. He said he was called a liar and ridiculed.
At several churches where Fr. Stewart served, there were multiple allegations of sexual abuse. There was a report of sexual abuse when Fr. Stewart was at St. Catherine of Genoa parish and the survivor was in high school. According to the archdiocese report: “The abuse consisted of oral sex on the survivor and occurred about once per month in high school.”

Fr. Stewart reportedly sexually abused minors from 1981-1986 while serving at St. Charles Lwanga parish. The parish council of St. Ailbe’s church, where he served in the early 1990s, was “upset because they see boys coming and going from the rectory at all hours,” documents show.
SECRET, continued on February 28, 2014.

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