DCFS closes case, but doesn’t clear well-known priest

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has closed its investigation into sexual abuse claims against Rev. John Smyth, the well-known charismatic former leader of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines; but that’s not an exoneration.

A DCFS spokesperson told WGN Investigates that Smyth’s death in April means he can’t be considered a current threat to children, and therefore the agency has no reason to investigate.

“The investigation into Father Smyth was closed following his death,” said DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch. “Over the course of the investigation, Smyth no longer had access to children and did not meet the criteria for the Department to conclude the investigation as Indicated.”

DCFS would typically only investigate old claims of abuse to determine whether children are currently in danger. A source said investigators found no evidence of recent abuse by Smyth, who continued to live near Maryville Academy after his retirement.  Following the allegations, the Archdiocese removed Smyth from ministry and said he could no longer live in the rectory at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe while the claims were investigated.

Father Smyth led Maryville Academy in Des Plaines and Notre Dame College Prep high school in Niles prior to his retirement in 2014.  Earlier this year, two men came forward and accused Smyth of molesting them when they were teenagers living at Maryville in the early-2000s. Des Plaines police reportedly found no credible evidence of abuse. However, a Chicago attorney said 10 men have come forward claiming they were molested by Father Smyth going back to the 1960s.  No lawsuit has been filed.  Rev. Smyth’s attorney told the Chicago Tribune in April the claims were bogus and based on a desire for a payout.

“The whole thing is outrageous,”  attorney Frank DiFranco told the Tribune. “There’s never been a single allegation against Father Smyth before now and now she’s got all these other clients? Come on.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago said now that local and state authorities appear to be closing their own probes, the Church will resume its investigation.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago has not yet received a report from DCFS regarding its investigation of the allegations made against Fr. Smyth,” wrote an Archdiocese spokesperson. “Upon receipt of a report, the Archdiocese will resume its investigation of the matter.”

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