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Survivor Narratives

Samuel D. Pusateri

Father Samuel Pusateri is an example of a pedophile priest whom the Diocese of Peoria long ignored. A member of the Order of Saint Benedict, he pleaded guilty in 1991 to criminal sexual assault of a 17 year old student at Saint Bede Academy in Peru—within the diocese’s geographic bounds. But for years, the diocese resisted publicly naming him as a credibly accused priest. The reason? “That’s not my man,” a church representative explained.

The reason why the diocese was reluctant to publicly name Pusateri as a child sex abuser may have something to do with how bishops generally responded to allegations of child sex abuse by members of religious orders. As one representative for multiple Illinois dioceses explained to the Attorney General’s investigators, a bishop’s response simply would be, “That’s not my man.” What the representative meant is that, although religious order clerics like Pusateri must receive a diocese’s permission to minister within its territory, they generally are governed by their order rather than the diocese. Put another way, the dioceses disclaim responsibility of any sort for those clerics operating within their geographic bounds who are not technically diocesan priests.

But Bishop John Myers’ response to Pusateri’s conviction undercuts that post hoc justification. A month after Pusateri was sentenced in 1991, the bishop wrote the prison chaplain where the disgraced priest was serving his time to request “your special attention for Father Samuel.” He followed this with a letter-writing campaign seeking permission for Pusateri to celebrate prison masses using grape juice instead of wine—a quest that culminated with Bishop Myers pleading Pusateri’s case to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop Myers did eventually revoke Pusateri’s permission to minister (or faculties) in the Diocese of Peoria. But he delayed doing so for years until late 1993—and even then he did not rule out the possibility he might renew Pusateri’s faculties after the priest was released from prison. “With regard to the request to have the faculties of the diocese restored,” Bishop Myers wrote to Pusateri’s religious order that his advisors’ “recommendation almost unanimously was ‘the time is not yet right.’” One wonders: when would be the right time to welcome a convicted child sex abuser back to the fold?

Pusateri never returned to the Diocese of Peoria. But in 1995, he turned up in the Diocese of Joliet, where he served as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters in Wheaton until 2004. He then departed for Rome, where he remained engaged in active ministry as recently as 2018, when the Attorney General’s investigation began.

"That's not my man," a church representative explained.

After initially resisting, both the Diocese of Peoria and the Diocese of Joliet ultimately relented to the Attorney General’s insistence that Pusateri—who, to reiterate, is a convicted child sex abuser—be named on their respective public lists of credibly accused priests. It is difficult to understand why this result took so long to accomplish and caused so much consternation. The only purported explanation—that Pustaeri is “not my man”—just doesn’t hold up.

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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.*