CHICAGO – A man who alleged he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard McGrath in the 1990s said he wanted to come forward to give other potential victims the courage to speak against the former president of Providence Catholic High School.
Robert Krankvich, 36, of Crest Hill filed a lawsuit Thursday morning against Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, where the abuse allegedly occurred, and the Order of St. Augustine.
The allegations also have been the subject of a criminal investigation now being reviewed by the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Krankvich said he found the strength after years of battling drug addiction and suicidal thoughts to speak out about his alleged sexual abuse at the hands of McGrath, who also had threatened him.
“I’ve decided to come forward because I’ve been living in shame and guilt for my entire adult life. … I wanted to use my name because I thought it would give power to what’s happening and to give other people the courage to say ‘Hey, this happened to me too,’ and not be afraid to come to the authorities,” Krankvich said.
Defendants placed McGrath where he had access to and worked with children as an integral part of his work, the suit stated. Krankvich developed great admiration, trust, reverence and respect for the defendants and their agents, including McGrath.
Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, who said the lawsuit was aimed at the Order of St. Augustine for its alleged coverups of past sex offenders within its ranks, represent Krankvich.
McGrath was ordained a Catholic priest under the Augustinian Order in the early 1970s, according to the lawsuit.
“This is about a bigger problem than just this rapist,” Anderson said.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County follows the closure of a New Lenox police investigation into McGrath, who was reported for allegedly having a photo of a nude 13-year-old boy on his cellphone.
A girl reportedly caught McGrath viewing the photo while he was sitting in the bleachers at a Providence wrestling match Dec. 8, according to police records. Providence and Diocese of Joliet officials announced his resignation days later while also revealing the police investigation.
Providence officials and police investigators tried to obtain the cellphone, but McGrath allegedly refused to hand it over. McGrath’s attorney, Patrick Reardon, told police that the cellphone might no longer exist. Anderson accused McGrath of destroying the phone.
“He destroyed the evidence of the possession of child pornographic images,” he said.
He also said New Lenox police are investigating McGrath. Krankvich said he went to the police in January to disclose his alleged abuse from McGrath after seeing the news of his resignation and subsequent investigation.
The investigation into the cellphone allegations was closed without charges in part because police never were able to obtain the phone.
New Lenox Police Chief Bob Sterba said that Krankvich brought his allegations to the department in January.
“We conducted a thorough and lengthy investigation,” Sterba said. “About four weeks ago, we turned over the results to the state’s attorney’s office.”
Sterba said New Lenox police are not investigating any other allegations against McGrath but added, “If there are others out there, we certainly encourage them to come forward.”
Will County State’s Attorney spokesman Charles Pelkie confirmed that the New Lenox investigation into Krankvich’s allegations has been “referred to our office for review, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The news of McGrath’s resignation left Krankvich sad, and he “cried uncontrollably” over the guilt of not coming forward sooner about the abuse. He said he wanted to say something six years ago but he was not strong enough, as he was battling drug addiction from the fallout of McGrath’s abuse.
“How many other people have been hurt by this predator?” Krankvich said. The lawsuit claims that McGrath abused Krankvich multiple times between 1995 and 1996, when he was 13 to 15 years-old.
Krankvich said he was a freshman student and a troubled youth when he first met McGrath. He said he looked up to McGrath at the time and he thought he loved and cared for him.
“I just felt special,” Krankvich said.
Krankvich’s lawsuit alleges that on information and belief, McGrath sexually abused other children before, during and after he sexually abused him. He asked the Augustinians to “come clean and release its list of accused offenders” and disclose identities of Augustinian priests and brothers accused of child sexual abuse, his attorneys stated in a news release.
Krankvich’s attorneys with Minnesota-based Jeff Anderson & Associates have taken legal action against Augustinians before with other cases of religious officials accused of sexual abuse. Anderson said the religious order in those cases has “hidden” behind statutes of limitations, which set a time limit on when legal proceedings can occur.
He said Augustinians have used statutes of limitations “as a shield and a sword,” but he doesn’t believe they have a time limit with Krankvich’s case.
“In this case, we don’t believe they have any statute of limitations. … And if they try to put them up, we will put them down,” he said.
The Diocese of Joliet said in a statement it is aware of the lawsuit and would “fully cooperate as the case proceeds.”
“Due to the case being in litigation, we cannot comment further at this time,” the statement said.
Providence Catholic High School referred questions to the diocese.