Raymond Francis Skriba
“As I indicated in our pleasant conversation, I feel that this whole matter should be forgotten by you as it has been forgotten by me. No good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations.” Cardinal John Cody wrote these chilling words in a brief letter to Father Raymond Skriba in July 1970.
Six months earlier, Skriba had been accused of sexually abusing three teenage girls at Saint Walter in the Morgan Park neighborhood of Chicago. Two of those girls wrote letters to the Archdiocese of Chicago detailing Skriba’s sexual touching, kissing, and other acts. One explained she was distraught and confused by his actions: “I didn’t know if it was wrong or not because he’s a priest and I thought I might be helping him.” The same survivor then warned the archdiocese about the danger Skriba posed to other children, noting that he had become involved in the parish’s teen club “primarily to become more familiar with new girls.” The letter concluded with a simple postscript: “Hurry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Monsignor Frank Byrne investigated the allegations and interviewed Skriba. He summarized his findings in a letter to the cardinal in March 1970: “In the course of his testimony I gathered that there was guilt here.” Indeed, Skriba appeared to admit wrongdoing while trying to shift blame to the teenage girls; he insisted he “was the one who was ‘abused’” and accused the girls of “baseless and insane jealousy.” Byrne also uncovered evidence suggesting Skriba might have been abusing other children. When confronted with the allegations, Skriba identified the girls he believed to be his accusers. But, Byrne noted, “the girls [Skriba] named and suspected as testifying against him are not the girls that I had seen.”
Despite concluding that Skriba was guilty, Byrne simply recommended he be moved from Saint Walter. Cardinal Cody kept the reasons for the reassignment deliberately vague, as reflected in the minutes of the archdiocesan personnel board from May 1970: “The Cardinal sent word that Father Raymond Skriba would be changed from St. Walters and that Ray would know why.” The archdiocese relocated Skriba to Saint Joseph in Round Lake.
And just as Cardinal Cody had hoped, the evidence of Skriba’s abuse was forgotten. The documentation of Skriba’s misconduct was placed in a folder marked “Privileged and Confidential,” where it remained buried for decades.
It took other survivors coming forward with their experiences to bring these records to light. In 2002, multiple women contacted the archdiocese about Skriba’s sexual abuse. After these survivors shared their experiences, the records from 1970—which showed that the church knew Skriba had engaged in sexual abuse—finally resurfaced. In the years after Cardinal Cody expressed his desire for “this whole matter [to] be forgotten,” Skriba is alleged to have abused or acted in an inappropriate sexual manner toward at least three more children.
Even in the face of numerous survivors’ statements and the evidence amassed more than three decades earlier, the archdiocese was slow to complete its investigation of Father Skriba. In December 2002, one survivor wrote to express frustration with the process: “I cannot believe this is still unresolved and that he has not been officially removed.”
It was not until January 2003 that Skriba was finally removed from ministry—almost 33 years after Cardinal Cody first determined that he had sexually abused young girls at Saint Walter. Skriba remained under monitoring until his death in 2014.