Recently, we’ve been working on tracking down clergy who are known to have sexually abused children, but have escaped liability due to the statute of limitations. In that regard, we have identified a massive problem, which is that there is no way to track these individuals once they are no longer priests.
For example, we decided to track former Catholic priest Larry Mullins, whom one of our staffers knew in the early 1990s.
At that time, Mullins had left the diocese of Joliet and was living in the greater DC area. According to Mullins, his bishop very much wanted him to come back. And while he claimed he made trips back to the diocese to officiate for weddings and funerals, he was actually going back to be deposed in civil litigation.
Shifting gears for a second, while it seems clear that Mullins’ bishop did not want him to return, a review of his redacted personnel file, located here, reveals the diocese certainly wasn’t exactly recoiling with horror over his conduct. Here’s what the diocese wrote when Mullins’ records were eventually obtained:
Since the lawyer had given indication that he already knew of certain situations, including yours, I don’t think there is any cause for anxious concern, but it would be helpful for us to be able to contact anyone involved before the lawyer does. The names have been deleted for the present, ,but we don’t know if that will stand up. The new situation certainly makes more problematical the possibility of continuing ministry here.
It is distressing to me that the Judge has made this ruling, but we had no choice but to comply. What the lawyer will do with those files is anyone’s guess, but judging from his past record, I do not expect anything good. How he will make use of those is still not known, but it seems as if his goal is to prove that the diocese did not respond to allegations of sexual abuse in the assignment of priests. (emphasis added)
Yikes. Just yikes. And yes, the judge actually did something good with the records—he allowed them to be published.
Speaking of assignments, when we recently contacted the Diocese of Joliet to learn of Mullins’ whereabouts, we did not even get the courtesy of a response. So much for the diocese’s claim of transparency.
So, we did some digging, and finally traced Mullins to an address in Colorado Springs, where he appears to live with a family member. We’re not going to publish the precise address, but it is in the middle of a quiet, very normal middle-class community. And in talking with neighbors, one thing quickly became apparent: none of them know about Mullins’ sordid track record of sexually abusing boys, even though we never referenced him in any way.
Amazingly, the Illinois attorney general reports that it was not until 2018 that Mullins was laicized. Was that in an effort to keep tabs on him? We’ll never know, although given the reluctantance expressed in his personnel file to deal with these issues, we doubt the delay was for any positive reason.
That begs the question: even with all those attorney general reports floating about, and all the names that are listed, does it do anyone any good if we don’t know where that person is now? What is to stop the abuser from claiming to still be a priest and using the differences in perceived power to again abuse children? After all, he probably still has his clericals.
Another curious thing: just as some dioceses, including Joliet, are known to have been epicenters of abuse, it appears that the same may happen once priests leave active ministry.
In Mullins’ case, we pulled up a list of registered sex offenders in the area around Mullins’ current home (Mullins is not listed, since he’s never faced criminal charges). And while many residential areas have significant numbers of offenders, our eyes popped when we examined his neighborhood. Indeed, there was so many as to otherwise obliterate the rest of the map.
Is that a coincidence? Maybe so.
But we can’t help but think that this extraordinary density of child sex offenders is not happenstance.
In closing, we leave you with two questions and a related observation:
1. Do you know who the registered sex offenders are in you neighborhood?
2. Can you identify persons in your neighborhood who have not been made to register, but have been charged with crimes against children?
We don’t know the answer to these questions, but we know that they strike close to home.
Because in our case, two staff members have registered sex offenders living within 100 feet of their homes. And there are four individuals who live nearby who are not registered sex offenders, but have molested children and not faced criminal charges, per police records.
So these issues are not distant problems or someone else’s issue. They literally are in our backyards.