Three retired priests now face sexual abuse allegations

Three retired priests now face sexual abuse allegations.

Three retired Central Illinois priests are facing sexual abuse allegations.

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria is removing those priests from public ministry because of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.

Those accused are Fr. George Hiland, who is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor approximately 50 years ago, Fr. Duane Leclercq, who is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor approximately 30 years ago and Fr. John Onderko, who is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor approximately 55 years ago.

Despite some recent changes in statutes of limitations, a lawsuit could prove to be difficult.

"I'm Catholic, I go to church every Sunday, who would think a priest, a guy you can trust the most would do something like this, it's just terrible," Paul Ray, a Springfield resident said.

A terrible situation that Ray said he cannot believe he is hearing about again.

"These people, if they need help, they need to be helped. Don't send them to another diocese and still have them keep doing the same stuff," Ray said.

Some of the incidents date back as far as 50 years, which raises the question of if there is a statute of limitations on these types of accusations.

“The law has changed several times in the past two or three decades in response to this,” Attorney Carl Draper said.

That change came in August of 2017 when an amendment was made to eliminate the statute of limitations in certain cases.

"This has now been eliminated for these very serious cases and so it frees up prosecution for those cases," Draper said.

But that does not necessarily mean a lawsuit could move forward.

"For a case that might be 50-years-old, for example, that statute of limitations was much, much shorter at that time period and probably expired," Draper said.

What it means is if the statute of limitations was shorter when the incident originally happened and that time period passed before the amendment happened, it could mean the legal door is a little less open for them.

"I would expect that any criminal defense attorney will argue that this change in the law cannot apply to something that has already had the legal door closed perhaps a decade or more," Draper said.

The cases have been referred to the state's attorneys for the counties where these alleged incidents reportedly occurred.

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