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Survivor Narratives

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.

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.”

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.

Despite concluding that Skriba was guilty, Byrne simply recommended he be moved from Saint Walter.

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 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.

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.

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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.*