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Survivor Narratives

Norman D. Goodman

The title of “monsignor” is reserved for clergy who have distinguished themselves by exceptional service to the church. The title is bestowed directly by the pope upon recommendation by the priest’s diocesan bishop. So Monsignor Norman Goodman was singled out as exceptional, not just by his own bishop, but also by the seat of the church in Rome. And according to “Jacob”—who was sexually abused by Goodman as a child—the Diocese of Peoria’s actions in the aftermath of his allegations demonstrate just how far it was willing to go to protect the reputation of one of its favored shepherds—at the expense of the youngest members of the flock.

Jacob shares his experience in a matter-of-fact way because, he says, he wasn’t the only one Goodman abused. Jacob was an altar server at Holy Family in Lincoln. Goodman would approach him from behind, press him up against a counter or sink, and fondle him. Sometimes Goodman would even stick money down Jacob’s front pants pocket as an excuse to touch his genitals. The abuse occurred when Jacob was in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade; it stopped around 1983.

In the late 1990s, Jacob told his family he had been abused by Goodman. He also came forward to the diocese. “Initially, I was in the mindset of, don’t pursue this, I don’t want anyone to know, this is a small town,” Jacob explains. His attitude changed after he sat down with diocesan representatives and their lawyers.

Jacob’s goals in that initial meeting were simple and straightforward. He wanted the diocese to acknowledge the abuse took place, remove Goodman from ministry so he wasn’t a danger to any other children, and offer a public apology. “They said that none of that is happening,” Jacob recalls—and so Goodman remained in ministry at Jacob’s parish.

A senior diocesan official—the same priest who lauded Goodman at his retirement mass—said to Jacob, "If you have such a problem with it, you need to catch [Goodman's] hand in the cookie jar." Jacob said, "A cookie jar would be a boy's pants." The official responded, "I know. Whatever. Just catch him."

When the diocese finally “retired” Goodman in the late 1990s, ostensibly in response to additional allegations that had surfaced against him, Jacob remembers the diocese sought to paint Goodman as the victim. He says a senior diocesan official came to Holy Family to offer mass and “say how wonderful Goodman was and how we’re going to miss him. They cloaked the church with wreaths of black garland as if Goodman was the one who had been victimized.” Even after that, the survivor says Goodman kept returning to Lincoln. He would sit at the school playground adjacent to Holy Family; he would also frequent other playgrounds in town and even the public pool where children often gathered.

One of the allegations against Goodman was forwarded to the Logan County state’s attorney because that survivor was still under 18 years old. But the state’s attorney declined to charge Goodman with any crimes. The diocese responded by drafting a celebratory press release. It said it was “pleased” with the decision and had “steadfastly believed in Msgr. Goodman’s innocence.” It closed with a shot aimed squarely at Goodman’s survivors: “The Peoria Diocese is confident the issue will now be put to rest, and those involved will get on with their lives.”

The diocese’s admonishment only served to motivate Jacob. He turned his focus to mediating his dispute with the diocese and securing settlement on behalf of himself and other survivors. Jacob says he was supposed to receive five meetings with the diocese to help them rewrite their abuse policies and procedures; he got just two. He also says the survivors were supposed to receive “a public apology, which we never got.” One moment from the mediation continues to gnaw at Jacob. A senior diocesan official—the same priest who lauded Goodman at his retirement mass—said to Jacob, “If you have such a problem with it, you need to catch [Goodman’s] hand in the cookie jar.” Jacob said, “A cookie jar would be a boy’s pants.” The official responded, “I know. Whatever. Just catch him.”

Finally, in 2002, the diocese placed Goodman on permanent leave and publicly acknowledged the sexual abuse allegations against him. But the work, Jacob says, had only just begun. “The mindset of my generation is, if you want to have a street fight, we’re going to have a street fight.” It’s this mentality that has led Jacob to take his advocacy on behalf of survivors beyond central Illinois. Since the late 1990s, he has travelled the world—from Dallas to Boston, from Australia to Rome—connecting survivors, attorneys, and advocacy groups in the name of promoting healing and ensuring accountability. Even today, Jacob says the church’s response continues to disappoint him: “What they did to us, and still do, when you’re in a religion, you have a level of ethics, morals, or decorum. I had never considered in a million years that that would not be present.” And so Jacob’s fight continues.

As for Goodman, the once favored son, the Diocese of Peoria produced records to the Attorney General’s investigators disclosing 19 survivors of Goodman’s child sex abuse.

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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.*