Father Thomas Considine was a serial abuser who preyed on young boys in vulnerable circumstances. He exploited his position as a teacher and family friend to gain access to children from struggling homes—or whose parents were having trouble making ends meet. And while the records reviewed by the Attorney General’s investigators suggest the Diocese of Rockford did not receive a report of wrongdoing regarding Considine until 2002, it nonetheless removed him from ministry in 1980 for undetermined reasons.
Bob Corcoran, who asked that his real name be used, reached out to the Attorney General’s investigators to share his experience of abuse at Considine’s hands. He met the priest in the early 1970s when he was a student at Saint Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin. Bob’s family had just moved to the city a few years earlier and was struggling to make ends meet. He was one of seven children, and his father suffered from a serious heart condition that made it impossible for him to work. His mother took on multiple jobs to support the family. She was delighted when Considine showed up and took an interest in her sons. As he reflects on these circumstances many years later, Bob suspects Considine looked at his family and “saw an opportunity” to take advantage of their hardships.
Bob’s father passed away when Bob was 16 years old. The boy was devastated. On his deathbed, Bob’s father asked him to please take care of his mother and brothers. “You are dependable,” Bob’s father told him. “You are the future of this family.” But by then, Bob says, Considine was considered “a part of our family” too. And soon after Bob’s father died, Considine betrayed the family’s trust.
The first time Considine sexually abused Bob was at Considine’s parents’ house in Chicago. Considine had invited Bob to spend the night there over the Thanksgiving weekend. Bob woke up suddenly to find Considine in his room, stroking Bob’s penis. Bob pretended to be asleep, but Considine was undeterred. He began to perform oral sex on Bob, which caused Bob to “freak out.” Considine assured him “it was okay.” “I’m a priest,” Considine told Bob. “This is how a priest shows love to his congregation. It’s very normal.”
Bob was sick to his stomach. He remembers feeling he was “alone, scared, and humiliated.” He told no one because he was certain “no one would believe me, especially my mother.” But Bob was not the only member of his family who was sexually abused by Considine. The priest also sexually abused two of Bob’s brothers, both at his parents’ house in Chicago and also on a special trip he took with them to Texas. Considine got the three brothers drunk every day on slow gin fizzes—and Bob recalls waking up repeatedly to find Considine having sex with him. “I was a toy for him,” Bob says.
Eventually, the abuse caused Bob to experience a “meltdown” at his high school. He remembers shouting out in the middle of history class, “You have an abuser here! Considine is an abuser!” His teacher—who was also his football coach—forcibly removed him from the classroom and told him, “Shut up or something will happen.” Bob was then “kicked out” of Saint Edward as a result of this incident. All the school told his mother was that the priests thought he would be better served by the public high school. But Bob believes the real reason is he “brought up something they didn’t want to discuss.”
It was also around this time that Bob first attempted suicide. The abuse took a heavy toll on his brothers too. One of them committed suicide in 1978; the other refuses to talk about it even today.
Bob eventually “blocked out” the abuse. He graduated from high school, got married, and started a family. But many years later, in the late 1980s, the traumatic events of his teenage years began to “come back” to him. He survived another suicide attempt and checked himself into an intensive therapy center in the Chicago suburbs.
Around the same time, Bob also reached out to the Diocese of Rockford to formally report the abuse. He placed two or three telephone calls but never heard back. Bob didn’t know it at the time, but the diocese had already removed Considine from ministry in 1980 for undetermined reasons.
Decades later, in 2011, “the Holy Spirit nudged” Bob to reach out to the diocese again. This time, he was able to share his experience with the diocese’s victims assistance coordinator and an investigator. The diocese’s vicar general even wrote Bob to thank him for coming forward. “I have no doubts the events you described did occur to you,” the vicar general said. “I can only imagine the fear and despair you felt, and for that I am sorry.”
Nevertheless, the diocese’s official determination was that Bob’s allegation “cannot be proved or disproved.” The diocese noted it was impossible to confront Considine because he had died in 1988—and impossible to investigate further because 40 years had passed since the abuse occurred. Bob had “never told anyone” about the abuse while it was happening, the diocese reasoned, so there were no “leads” for its investigator to “pursue.” In other words, Bob’s own account was insufficient; the diocese insisted on a corroborating witness.
Bob also asked the diocese whether it had received any reports that Considine had abused other children. Bob said he was asking because he wanted to offer help and support—and he was “certain” there were other survivors. The diocese responded that “all cases are confidential” and therefore it could neither confirm nor deny that there are other allegations against Considine.
In fact, the diocese had previously received two allegations against Considine. The allegations are consistent with Bob’s experience. And the diocese itself was confident that the abuse had occurred. The diocese’s vicar general said he had “no doubt about the truth and accuracy of what” had been reported to him by the first survivor to come forward, and the diocese’s intervention committee subsequently found that allegation to be substantiated. Yet Bob was never told.
Bob is now in his mid-60s. He is a successful businessman. And to a casual observer, at least, it might be difficult to believe he is a survivor of child sex abuse. But, Bob says, he remains haunted by “all these demons, and no one understands them.” He is estranged from his children. He became an alcoholic to “ease the pain”—but “the pain never goes away” completely. “I have never accepted what happened to me,” Bob says.
In the past, Bob would tell himself to “just get over it.” But that approach is no longer working. So Bob recently enrolled in intensive therapy and reached out to other professionals for assistance. He worries he can’t be “fixed,” but he is nevertheless making important progress to “overcome” the pain and focus on healing. His wife is providing him with incredible support. She joined Bob’s interview with the Attorney General’s investigators; it was her first time hearing the details of his experience. Bob is now eager to “shout his story from the rooftop” in the hopes his experience will help other survivors of abuse to understand they are not alone.
As for the Diocese of Rockford, he simply wants it to practice what it preaches. “I just want the church to have a heart,” he says. “All they want to do is hide. They have done nothing,” he says, to help survivors like himself.