Federal jury finds former Jesuit guilty of crime on trips with boy
By Jeff Coen and Manya Brachear | Tribune reporters
Donald McGuire sat hunched in his wheelchair in a federal courtroom Friday with his face locked in a frown, a shell of the charismatic priest who traveled the world to hold religious retreats and advise Mother Teresa.
McGuire listened as a federal jury convicted him of traveling to engage in sex acts with a teen he had taken on trips to Minnesota, Switzerland and Austria.
It was the latest dark chapter for a 78-year-old former clergyman described by authorities as one of the most prolific sexual predators ever to hide behind a priest’s robes. He is thought to have abused dozens of victims since joining the Jesuit order more than four decades ago, investigators have said.
He was convicted in 2006 in Wisconsin of molesting two students from Loyola Academy in Wilmette during trips near Lake Geneva in the 1960s and sentenced to 7 years in prison. He also faces additional criminal charges in Arizona.
“I continue to pray for the spiritual well-being of all the people involved in this case,” McGuire, who is in custody, told his attorney.
The jury deliberated only about two hours after a 2 ?-week trial. McGuire was convicted of engaging in sex with a victim identified in court only as Dominick, who said he was 13 when the abuse began in 1999. To buttress their case, prosecutors called four other witnesses who all testified to similar sexual abuse by McGuire during overseas trips while they were minors.
The jury foreman, Ron Douglas, commended the courage of the witnesses for going public with their painful episodes of abuse in court.
“The more willing people are to step forward, the less likely [abuse] is going to happen on a large scale going forward,” he said.
As a result of the trial, Douglas, 50, said he planned to talk to his own teenage daughter to make certain she would be comfortable enough to come to him if anyone ever treated her inappropriately.
Prosecutors said the victims came from deeply religious families who saw the opportunity for their sons to act as aides to McGuire as an honor.
Each of the five victims-Peter, David, Michael and John, in addition to Dominick-told jurors how McGuire lured them into talk about sex through confession, showed them pornography and manipulated them into giving him nude massages with baby oil and performing sex acts.
Beginning in 1991, the Jesuits had ordered McGuire not to travel with minors after complaints from parents began to surface. But four of the victims testified the abuse took place until 1994 during trips to Russia and Poland. Dominick said he was abused between 1999 and 2002.
In addition, in the fall 2007, McGuire was sued by two brothers who said they were abused by him during trips to Arizona between 1998 and 2002. Those allegations eventually resulted in the criminal charges he faces there.
The father of the Arizona victims, who asked that he be identified only as Jim to protect the identities of his sons, attended Friday’s verdict.
“I was elated,” he said. “But at the same time to see someone you once loved sitting in a most pitiful condition, it saddened me.”
McGuire’s lawyer, Stephen Komie, had argued all the allegations were concocted in an effort to extract money from the Roman Catholic Church.
But Assistant U.S. Atty. Julie Ruder, who led the prosecution, ripped the attack on the witnesses’ character.
“It was offensive,” she said.
Rev. Edward Schmidt, provincial of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, said the religious order expressed “deepest sorrow” to victims of McGuire. He was defrocked by the Jesuits this year.
Some abuse advocates have charged that the McGuire case illustrates how religious orders such as the Jesuits have lagged behind the nation’s dioceses in implementing reform.
Tribune reporter Margaret Ramirez contributed to this report.