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Survivor Narratives

Francis Skube

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.”

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.”

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.

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Terms are defined as provided in the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Glossary of Catholic Terms, unless denoted with *.

Altar server
Individuals, usually children, who assist clerics during liturgical functions such as mass. Prior to 1994, only men and boys were permitted to be altar servers.*
The title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials.
The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province. It is governed by an archbishop.
Auxiliary Bishop
A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop.
The highest order of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church. The chief priests in their respective dioceses. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. All bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church.
A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from ordained members of religious orders.
Canon Law

A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church.

Highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope. Cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors. Most cardinals are archbishops.
The chief archivist of a diocese's official records. Also a notary and secretary of the diocese’s central administration.
Clergy is a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests, and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. A cleric is an individual member of the clergy. Only men are permitted to join the clergy.
Confession or Reconciliation
The Catholic sacrament in which one makes a voluntary self-accusation of sins to a qualified priest in private in order to obtain absolution. The priest provides the confessor, also known as the penitent, with a penance to atone for sins committed. A priest who hears confession is forbidden from disclosing the contents of a confession to others under what is called the seal of confession.*
The personnel and offices through which (1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or (2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia). The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors, and notaries.
Dallas Charter
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People sets forth policies for each United States archdiocese and diocese to adopt as part of an effort to address allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The Charter was formulated at the 2002 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
One of three groups that comprise the clergy, meaning those ordained for ministry. Only men are permitted to become deacons. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests.
Diocesan Priest
Priests under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other diocesan ministries or released for service outside the diocese.
A territorial division of the Church headed by a bishop.
Extern Priest
A priest with faculties to minister in a diocese or archdiocese who was not ordained in that diocese or archdiocese. For example, a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Springfield who has been granted faculties to minister by the Archdiocese of Chicago is an extern priest.*
Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a Church superior, to perform certain official acts.
Members of the Catholic Church. Derived from Catholic teachings that clergy are like shepherds guiding a flock.*
Laicize or Defrock
The process by which a priest is returned to the lay state. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime, but also can come at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent for a crime, such as committing child sexual abuse, it is sometimes called defrocking.
Any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader, or music leader at mass.
An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests.
A member of a religious order of women who has taken solemn or simple vows.
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop. A cleric who has undergone ordination is known as ordained.*
A specific community within a diocese with its own church building and under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.
A priest in charge of a Catholic parish or congregation.
Acts performed to atone for committed sins, as directed by a priest in the Catholic sacrament of reconcilliation.*
Residential housing for clergy provided by the Church. A rectory can also contain administrative offices for a parish.*
Religious Cleric
Professed member of a religious order or institute. Religious clergy live according to the rule of their respective orders.
Religious Order or Order
An institution of men or women, at least some of whose members take solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and whose male members are sometimes ordained.*
An educational institution for men preparing for the priesthood.
A cleric who acts in the name of another cleric.*
Vicar general
A priest, auxiliary bishop, or coadjutor bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese.
Victims Assistance Coordinator

A diocesan employee who has been designated to coordinate assistance to survivors of sex abuse by clerics.*