Matt C. Abbott
Arson strikes parish of molester priest, slain choir director
By Matt C. Abbott
February 7, 2009

According to a story in the Feb. 6 Chicago Sun-Times:

    'A former Catholic priest who molested at least three children worked at a Bridgeport church where a fire was set and 'Rape' and 'Happend's here' were scrawled in red duct tape Friday morning.

    ''God is a Lie' was also written in tape on the front doors of All Saints St. Anthony parish, where an early morning fire set in an alley next to the church's north wall destroyed a stained glass window....

    'A second fire was set next to a street light directly across from the church.

    'Investigators are calling at least one of the fires arson.

    'Former priest Robert Craig once served as an assistant pastor at All Saints St. Anthony parish, said the Rev. John Parker, the church's current pastor.

    'He was at the parish from 1977 to 1982, officials said.

    'Craig is listed on the Archdiocese of Chicago's Web site as a priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor....'

What isn't mentioned in the Sun-Times article is that in 1984, All Saints St. Anthony Parish's choir director, Francis Pellegrini, was found stabbed to death in his apartment — and the murder remains unsolved.

From a June 1, 1984 story in the Chicago Tribune, by reporter Philip Wattley:

    'A suspect was being sought Thursday in connection with the slaying of a City Colleges of Chicago professor whose body, bearing 20 stab wounds, was found in his South Side apartment.

    'Police said it appeared that the victim, Francis E. Pellegrini, 47, was slain Wednesday by someone he knew, because there was no sign of forced entry to his apartment....

    'Police said the suspect being sought was well acquainted with Pellegrini and recently took out a $100,000 insurance policy on Pellegrini's life....

    'For the last nine years, Pellegrini, an assistant professor of sociology and social science for City Colleges, had been assigned to a program that allows high school seniors to take advanced courses to earn college credits, college officials said....

    'Pellegrini's body was discovered at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday by his landlord.

    'Pellegrini, who was the organist and choir director at All Saints-St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 518 W. 28th Pl., had not shown up to direct the choir.

    'Last fall Pellegrini was honored for 25 years of service to the church, receiving congratulations from Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, President Reagan, Gov. James Thompson and Mayor Harold Washington.

    'From 1971 to 1975, before joining the City Colleges faculty, Pellegrini was executive director of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, sponsor of Chicago's annual Columbus Day Parade.

    'In 1964, while a teacher at Josephinum Catholic High School here, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study classical languages in Italy.'

To my knowledge, the "suspect" mentioned in the above news item was never publicly identified, and no one has ever been charged in the murder.

Mr. Pellegrini reportedly was going to meet with an archdiocesan priest-official — Father Tom Ventura, who left the priesthood several years ago — to reveal the activities of an alleged clergy pederast ring known as The Boys' Club. But Mr. Pellegrini was murdered before the meeting took place.

Interestingly, Father Andrew Greeley, an acquaintance of Mr. Pellegrini, alluded to The Boys' Club in two of his non-fiction books. Click on this link to read my column on the matter.

Also, Catholic attorney Sheila Parkhill spent a few years investigating The Boys' Club and Mr. Pellegrini's murder — read about it by clicking on this link — and tried her best to break through the political and moral corruption so prevalent here in Illinois.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if they're marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)


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