The Claretian Missionaries promised Thursday to take "as proactive a stance as possible to help the victim" following allegations in a lawsuit of sexual abuse by a former Claretian priest at the Our Lady of Guadalupe parish on Cicago's South Side in the early 1970s.
"It is difficult for us to comment on the suit because we have not been officially notified of the specifics," the Claretian Missionaries statement says. "The Claretians immediately notified the Cook County's State's Attorney's Office that an allegation had been reported to them," it added.
Representatives from the State's Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment.
The Claretian Missionaries expelled Eusebio Pantoja in 1980 following an allegation against the former priest of sexual abuse in Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the statement. The alleged Chicago victim, Juan Doe, now a 48-year-old area businessman, claims Pantoja repeatedly raped him when he was 14, said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer representing Doe, whose real name is being withheld.
Pantoja organized church youth activities and the abuse allegedly took place at the church, located at 3200 E. 91st St., and at Pantoja's home.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, names Pantoja and the order to which he belonged, the Congregation of Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Eastern Province, or Claretian Missionaries.
The lawsuit states the Claretian Missionaries had knowledge of Pantoja's "pedophile impulses and behavior, but failed to act on that knowledge."
In its statement, the Claretian Missionaries say, "The Claretians certainly deplore any active sexual abuse of minors and will take as proactive a stance as possible to help the victim, his family and our communities to move forward."
"We regret and apologize for the harm the victim has endured and pray for peace for him and his family."
After one year at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pantoja transferred in 1971 to the Claretian parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Perth Amboy, N.J.
"The transfer was not related to any allegation of sexual misconduct," the statement reads.
Ordained a Claretian Missionary in 1969, Pantoja also served at St. Timothy in San Antonio, Texas, in 1974; St. Anthony in Robstown, Texas, from 1975 to 1977; Sacred Heart in Mathis, Texas, from 1978 to 1979, and Our Lady of Holy Rosary in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1980.
Pantoja fled to Celaya, Mexico in 1980, where the Bishop of Celaya was "fully informed" of his expulsion from the order, according to the Claretian Missionaries statement. The lawsuit claims Pantoja served at a parish in Mexico from 1984 to March 2003. His current location is unknown following his removal from the parish about six months ago, Anderson said.
According to its Web site, the Claretian Missionaries are a Roman Catholic religious community of priests and brothers founded by Saint Anthony Claret in 1849. More than 3,000 priests and brothers form the community worldwide.