Skip to Content

Survivor Narratives

John C. Anderson

When the lawn at Saint Edward in Chillicothe needed to be mowed, Father John Anderson knew just whom to ask—the altar servers. But for at least two young children, an innocent request to do yard work turned into sleepovers at the rectory—and those sleepovers turned into repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a predator priest. These survivors spoke to the Attorney General’s investigators about their experiences—and their disappointment with the Diocese of Peoria’s responses. Both men carry the memories of Anderson’s abuse with them to this day.

“Adam” was 8 years old when his family moved to Chillicothe in the late 1970s. He enrolled in the third grade at Saint Edward, where Anderson was pastor. That’s when he began spending evenings at the rectory. While Adam slept, Anderson would sneak in and rub the child’s penis over his clothes. Adam began mowing the lawn at Saint Edward—and also at Anderson’s property west of town, where the priest’s mother lived. But as the work progressed, so did the abuse. On overnights, at the rectory and now at his mother’s home too, Anderson would enter Adam’s room, reach into his pants, and fondle him. Eventually, Anderson would strip fully naked and masturbate while lying next to Adam in his bed. The abuse went on for three or four years; Adam estimates Anderson abused him 30 to 45 times. He believes it stopped only because he was getting older.

The diocese told Adam it knew Anderson had abused young boys like him—and it suggested he forgive the predator priest.

Adam still feels the effects of Anderson’s abuse. “He’s messed up my life,” Adam explains. “This truly ruined a young kid’s mind. And it didn’t just ruin my childhood. It also ruined my manhood as I got older.” Adam turned to the Diocese of Peoria for help. “I started drinking a lot, and I think my emotions were getting to me because I had done this for so long. I called the diocese to let it all out.” The diocese told Adam it knew Anderson had abused young boys like him—and it suggested he forgive the predator priest. “When I heard that, I was kind of dumbfounded,” Adam says. Even today, the memories keep him from going back to the town where he grew up. “I kept it bottled up,” he explains. “I was more ashamed and embarrassed. That’s why I don’t go back to Chillicothe anymore. I feel like their eyes are looking at me.”

"This truly ruined a young kid's mind. And it didn't just ruin my childhood. It also ruined my manhood as I got older."

“Paul” moved to Chillicothe in 1978 after his parents divorced. Like Adam, he became an altar server at Saint Edward—and Anderson also asked Paul to mow the parish’s lawn and, later, to spend some time with Anderson’s mother on the weekends to make some extra money. Again, this led to sleepovers. Paul always slept on the couch; while he slept, Anderson would enter the room, stick his hand down Paul’s pants, and start masturbating him. The abuse went on like that for two or three years. Finally, one night at the rectory, Paul ran out the front door after Anderson tried to abuse him again. He decided to move back to Quincy, where his father still lived, to get away from Anderson. About a year later, Anderson traveled to Quincy for the weekend with two other boys. Paul met up with them briefly. “I think he was checking up on me to see if I had told anyone or would say anything,” Paul recalls. “He’d ask, ‘How are you? Are you alright? Have you talked to anyone about the stuff we talked about before?’” Paul told the priest he hadn’t. “Who’s going to believe me?” he said.

"Anderson was a repeat offender; I was called a liar. When you get told that, you basically give up. If the bishop won't believe me, who will?"

In 1993, Paul disclosed the abuse to his counselor, who reported it to the diocese. This led to a phone call between Paul and Bishop John Myers. “I was told the whole time on that phone call that I was lying, that Anderson would never do that, that he denied it. But I came to find out he was doing it to one of my best friends,” Paul remembers. “Anderson was a repeat offender; I was called a liar. When you get told that, you basically give up. If the bishop won’t believe me, who will?”

A Peoria bishop eventually did acknowledge that Paul had been abused by Anderson—but not Bishop Myers. In a 2002 letter, Bishop Daniel Jenky wrote to Paul’s mother:

First of all, allow me to apologize for the abuse your son [Paul] experienced from John Anderson. There is no way I could ever adequately express my deep sorrow and great shame that he or anybody else was ever victimized by a priest.

In an apparent attempt to justify the delay in acknowledging Anderson’s abuse of Paul, Bishop Jenky painted Anderson as a master of deception: “As you have personally experienced, a perpetrator is often highly skilled in hiding his crimes and cleverly manipulating both his friends and his colleagues.” In October 2018, after the Attorney General’s investigation began, the Diocese of Peoria reported the allegations against Anderson by Paul, Adam, and other survivors to the local state’s attorney—more than 16 years after Bishop Jenky’s letter to Paul’s mother.

Paul wants to make sure no one else experiences what he did. “I sure don’t want anyone to have to go through that, to have all your beliefs and everything you’ve been told in your life to be flushed down the drain.” He will never forget his 1993 phone call with Bishop Myers: “There was a dangerous man walking among them. And the diocese didn’t do a dang thing about it. They protected him.”

See details for John Anderson

Back to Top

Scroll of Abusive Clerics/Brothers



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.*