Loyola graduates James Egan and Roman Krasnitsky — both of whom were enrolled in St. Joseph College Seminary for around two years before leaving the seminary and becoming full-time Loyola students — recently founded The Archangel Foundation, a non-profit organization to help survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
Egan, a 24-year-old living in Evanston, and Krasnitsky, a 24-year-old Rogers Park resident, met at St. Joseph, which they entered in 2013 and left in 2015. The two said the issue of clerical sexual abuse has been on their minds since leaving the seminary — which is closing this June due to a decreasing number of men pursuing priesthood, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.
But, it wasn’t until last summer that Egan and Krasnitsky said they decided to start reaching out to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, after Theodore McCarrick — former cardinal and archbishop of Washington D.C. — was accused of sexually abusing minors and adults. Krasnitsky said they saw an opportunity to increase their efforts because more people began speaking out.
“This was kind of a bright moment of opportunity for healing and to bring criminals to justice,” Krasnitsky said. “We decided that it was time to increase our efforts, that it was a great opportunity to help more people speak out.”
While the organization wasn’t officially established until December 2018, Egan and Krasnitsky said they’ve been doing the actual work of the foundation since July. At first, they said they worked on a smaller scale by reaching out to people they personally knew who were affected by clerical sexual abuse.
“In one case what we did was we wrote a personal letter and explained what we knew about the story and provided a step-by-step scheme basically of ‘here’s who we can connect you with on a legal front, here’s who we can connect you with in terms of journalists, mental health resources,’” Egan explained.
They realized they could expand their work by creating and registering as a non-profit organization.
“Through that we started talking to a lot of lawyers and journalists, talking to the State Attorney’s General investigation into the Catholic Church,” Egan said. “And so from that we realized well, we already have kind of a network going here, why don’t we make it official and let’s start a non-profit that can connect survivors to resources we have already found.”
Egan and Krasnitsky were unable to specify the number of people the organization is currently helping for confidentiality reasons. But they said that since they started their work in the summer, the number of survivors they’re helping has increased.
“Our goal in supporting survivors is in part to expose that network as much as we possibly can so the Church as a whole can move forward and get rid of all of these twisted networks of predators and [be] there to support survivors,” Egan said.
Egan said their organization differs from others — such as Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, which mainly focuses on connecting survivors to one another through a support network — because it links survivors with any kind of help they need, ranging from legal support, connections with journalists and media outlets for survivors to publicize their stories and mental health resources, such as counseling.
As a non-profit organization, Krasnitsky said they try to set up the organization’s services so it doesn’t cost survivors anything, such as finding people who’ll work pro-bono and covering other costs through The Archangel Foundation.
Before officially establishing a non-profit organization, Egan said the two asked for donations from people around the community to cover costs. Now that they’re a non-profit, they mostly receive funding through grant applications and fundraising events.
“In terms of mental health counseling, a lot of states have funds available for victims of criminal activity to get mental health counseling,” Egan said.
All states receive funding from the Office for Victims of Crime through the Federal Victims of Crime Act.
Egan and Krasnitsky said their organization is meant to support all survivors, but part of their focus is emphasizing the fact that there are adult survivors of clerical sexual abuse, not just children.
“Rape is rape, whether it’s a child or an adult,” Krasnitsky said.
Egan compared the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic Church to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. He said the issue of sexual assault and use of coercion in the Catholic Church is similar to industry professionals demanding sexual favors from people who have less power. He said “it’s not just a bunch of bad eggs,” but a network of predators.
“It’s predatory, it’s coercive because the Church is a hierarchy,” Egan said. “It doesn’t hide that fact, that’s how it’s structured. So there’s all these different levels of power within it and for groups of higher power to prey on people underneath them is a predatory act.”
The issue of sexual abuse by clergymen is present throughout the Catholic Church and Illinois is no exception. Although the dioceses of Illinois had publicly identified 185 clergy members as guilty of sexual abuse, in December 2018, Attorney General Lisa Madigan found the dioceses has received allegations of sexual assault against at least 500 additional priests and clergy members in Illinois.
“We’ve come across survivors who were abused last month,” Krasnitsky said. “You know, this isn’t something that happened 50 years ago in the Church … This is something that continues happening.”
Three former Loyola priests were included in a list of Jesuits with “established” allegations of sexual abuse of a minor since 1955, The Phoenix reported in December. Two priests, Father John J. Powell and Father Donald J. McGuire, have multiple allegations against them. The third priest, Father M. Lawrence Reuter, reportedly abused minors at Loyola Academy before his time at Loyola University, where he worked for more than 10 years.
“I’d like to encourage anyone who reads this article, who might have been exploited or abused by a priest, deacon, bishop, cardinal, out there, if that’s happened to them, there is hope for healing and a way forward,” Krasnitsky said. “There are so many resources out there for them and that’s the goal of our foundation, it’s to connect them to those resources.”
More information on the foundation can be found at archangelfoundationinc.com or by calling (312)625-0188.