Father Francis Skube arrived in the Diocese of Belleville sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s. He sold himself as the cofounder and superior of a religious order called Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King. Even then, though, his sexual interest in children was no secret to some church officials.
A March 1959 letter to an official in the Diocese of Springfield from the pastor of Saint Francis in Provo, Utah, warned “Skube will cause a great deal of spiritual damage while masquerading as religious.” The pastor said he “expelled” Skube from Saint Francis some sixteen months earlier because he had committed “homosexual acts” with nine junior high school boys. Skube caused “great spiritual damage” to those boys, the pastor reported, most of whom “are still suffering from bad habits which were taught” to them by Skube.
That same day, the Saint Francis pastor also wrote directly to Skube. He warned him to stop sending letters and photos of himself to the boys he had abused in Provo. “We are still trying to overcome the ravages of your weakness of homosexuality which you inflicted on some of the boys of St. Francis School,” the pastor explained. And he closed with a threat of his own: “If you want to stay out of jail, Frank, stay out of St. Francis Parish.”
Despite this damning evidence, it seems the Diocese of Belleville was in the dark about Skube’s past when it welcomed him in. It was not until January 1971 that it received a copy of the March 1959 letters from the Saint Francis pastor. And apparently it failed to ask any of Skube’s former colleagues for a reference. If it had, the Saint Francis pastor likely would not have hesitated to offer Belleville the same chilling warning he had previously given Springfield: “Francis Skube is not a religious brother in any sense of the term.”
Unsurprisingly, Skube continued committing crimes against children. The Belleville chancellor’s handwritten notes dated July 1976 reference some “serious difficulties” Skube experienced a few years earlier at Saint Catherine Labouré in Cahokia. It got so bad “people were ready to do him bodily harm.”
In 1974, Bishop Albert Zuroweste “confronted” Skube about his “problems” and offered him a choice. If Skube would resign his leadership role in the Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King and “go for psychiatric aid,” then the religious order could remain in the diocese. If Skube refused, however, then the order would have to find a new diocese to call home (and the new bishop would have to be told of Skube’s “problems”).
Skube chose to flee to another diocese. He even drafted a proposed letter of recommendation to prospective landing spots for the bishop’s signature. As directed, the draft acknowledged Skube had “been accused of homosexual activities in the Diocese of Salt Lake City and twice in the Diocese of Belleville”—a coded and euphemistic reference to his abuse of children. “Other than this,” the draft pronounced without a hint of irony, “he has done an excellent job.” The bishop declined to put his name to Skube’s draft.
Nevertheless, Skube wound up in the Diocese of Davenport in Iowa—and, after he wore out that welcome too, in the Diocese of Peoria and then other dioceses in Florida, Indiana, and Ohio. In 2008, the Diocese of Davenport found allegations of child sex abuse against him to be credible and added the disgraced priest to its public list. After a thorough review, the Attorney General’s investigators pressed the Diocese of Belleville to follow suit, which it finally did in February 2020.