Diocese of Joliet: 100s of Files Released

Hundreds of documents were released today regarding fifteen priests of the Diocese of Joliet who have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

The release of documents comes less than six weeks after a trial court in Will County ordered the Diocese to make the documents public.  According to the court’s order, the files were released because “there is a compelling public interest to protect children from being sexually exploited and abused.”  The court concluded that public interest outweighed any privacy or confidentiality rights of the individual priests or the Diocese, although the court required the parties to redact the names of alleged victims and their families.  Read the full order regarding the release of files regarding preists of the Diocese of Joliet.

The following 15 priests are identified in the court’s order as having been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct or abuse with minors while serving as priests in parishes of the Diocese of Joliet:

1)      Fr. Salvatore Formusa, deceased

2)      Fr. Leonardo Mateo, deceased

3)      Fr. Donald Pock, deceased

4)      Fr. James Frederick, deceased

5)      Fr. John Slown

6)      Fr. Carroll Howlin

7)      Fr. Donald O’Connor, deceased

8)      Fr. James Burnett

9)      Fr. Michael Gibbney

10)   Fr. Frederick Lenczycki

11)   Fr. Philip Dedera

12)   Fr. Anthony Ross

13)   Fr. Lawrence Gibbs

14)   Fr. William Virtue

15)   Fr. Lawrence Mullins

According to Chris Hurley of Chicago-based law firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, the trial court’s order is a model for other cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse:  “These documents reflect the systemic failures that allowed hundreds of children to be abused in just one diocese.  Full transparency is the only way to provide closure to abuse survivors and to protect future generations.”

Hurley’s firm represents a number of men who alleged they were sexually abused by some of these 15 priests.  Last June, Hurley filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet on behalf of a man who alleged he was abused by Father Lawrence Gibbs.  According to the complaint, Gibbs repeatedly abused Hurley’s client between 1976 and 1979 while he was a parishioner and student at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church, a parish and school owned and operated by the Diocese.  By 1976, the plaintiff alleges the Diocese “had actual knowledge that Catholic priests sexually abused minor parishioners within the Diocese of Joliet,” and by 1977, “the Diocese of Joliet should have known that Catholic priests, specifically Lawrence Gibbs, sexually abused young boys attending religious retreats organized and supervised by agents and/or employees of the Diocese of Joliet and St. James the Apostle Catholic Church.”

Although Hurley applauds the trial court’s order, he urged the Diocese to release more documents:  “In 2006, the Diocese of Joliet identified 22 priests as having substantiated allegations of sexually abusing minors while they served in the Diocese.  If the Diocese wants to move forward, it should release whatever documents it has on the other five priests and anyone else that it knows was molesting children.”  You can read the list of 22 priests with substantiated allegations of sexually abusing minors by clicking here.

Update:  The Diocese has updated its list of priests with “substantiated” or “credible” allegations of child abuse. The list now has 34 names, up from 22 in 2011.

If you or someone you love survived abuse by a priest or someone else in a position of authority, please contact us to learn your options.  You can also read more of our blog postings regarding the Diocese of Joliet, the Catholic Church in Illinois, and the Boy Scouts of America.