Suburban church is hit with abuse suit, Ex-priest accused of molestation in ’70s

By Azam Ahmed | Chicago Tribune reporter

A 46-year-old Streamwood man has accused his former priest of sexually abusing him more than 30 years ago and Greek Orthodox church officials of attempting to cover it up, according to a lawsuit that marks the fifth allegation against the defrocked priest.

Nicholas Katinas, who is married, was pastor at Assumption Church in Olympia Fields from 1969 to 1978. The plaintiff, a former altar boy known as John Doe 124, said Katinas sexually abused him as a 15-year-old at the Olympia Fields church during 1977 and 1978. The suit also said three other boys in Katinas’ congregation were abused by the priest.

Lawyers said church officials had reason to suspect Katinas, 73, of improper behavior with boys years before the plaintiff was abused, an important element of the lawsuit. By accusing the church of concealing the abuse, the plaintiff’s lawyers are hoping to avoid the statute of limitations on the abuse allegations.

“They have done what we have so long complained about in the Catholic Church,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing the plaintiff. “They hide, shuffle and cover for [the abusers]. They kept that knowledge secret among themselves and they concealed it from police and parishioners.”

Specifically, the lawsuit said the church knew of Katinas’ behavior before he began to abuse the plaintiff, a piece of information that might have saved him from abuse. The lawsuit also said Katinas abused another altar boy younger than 18 on 10 to 12 occasions in the early 1970s. Another allegation is that Katinas attempted to assault a boy as young as 13 in spring 1974.

The lawsuit names Katinas, Assumption Church, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which presides over the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S. and consists of 540 parishes, 800 priests and 1.5 million members.

“It was well known to the defendants . . . that a number of Greek Orthodox priests in and outside of the Chicago metropolis region [have] sexually abused minors before and during the time that Katinas abused the plaintiff,” the lawsuit said. “Despite this knowledge, defendants . . . failed to adopt and implement pertinent preventative policies and procedures.”

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America did not return calls seeking comment. Katinas-who has not faced criminal charges-could not be reached for comment.

Many details gathered in the lawsuit are the result of interviews conducted for lawsuits against Katinas in Texas, where he was transferred in 1978. Katinas spent almost three decades as a priest at Holy Trinity Church in Dallas before he was defrocked in 2006.

Katinas is believed to be living in Greece, Anderson said.

It wasn’t until the Streamwood man discovered that Katinas’ other victims had filed suits that he “perceived the wrongfulness” of the priest’s actions and decided to sue as well, the lawsuit said. The suit seeks more than $50,000 for the physical and psychological damages suffered by the plaintiff.