CHICAGO, April 14, 2015 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet has agreed to pay $4,137,500 to resolve the claims of fourteen (14) men who were the victims of abuse by priests of the Diocese from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. The men are represented by the Chicago-based law firm of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, PC., and the Seattle-based firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC.
Four of the men had previously filed suit in the Will County Circuit Court. The suits alleged that the Diocese of Joliet allowed known or suspected predators and pedophiles to meet with young boys at remote or private locations outside the presence of other adults. The incidents took place in private living quarters, at off-site “retreats,” and in the back row of a school classroom. Several of them involve priests plying minors with alcohol and then taking advantage of them. One involved an elaborate ruse in which the plaintiff was persuaded to strip out of street clothes and don a loincloth so that the priest could “practice” administering funeral rites.
The complaints expressly allege that the plaintiffs were sworn to strict secrecy by their abusers. States Mark McKenna, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, “The truth was buried for a long, long time because first, kids are vulnerable and don’t really understand what is happening to them, second, they were being victimized by priests who had their complete trust and allegiance as a representative of God on earth, and third, several of our plaintiffs were actually sworn to secrecy by these priests. No wonder they didn’t talk. If their parents had had any inkling what the diocese knew when it knew it, they would have demanded immediate reporting and reform.”
The complaints allege that the Diocese of Joliet knew or should have known about the risk of abuse, or actual incidents of abuse, and yet engaged in a pattern and practice of hiding what it knew, and covertly transferring pedophile priests around the diocese and out of state – ultimately to protect its interests instead of the interests of the children entrusted to it, that it had a duty to protect.
In March of 2013, the Diocese of Joliet released 16 personnel files of priests with substantiated allegations against them of abusing children. As previously reported by the Chicago Tribune, the files “contain more than 7,000 records detailing how the diocese purposely shielded priests, misled parishioners and left children unprotected for more than a half-century.”
Each of the priests accused of abusing the fourteen victims is on the Diocese of Joliet’s recently updated List of Priests with Credible/Substantiated Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors Made Against Them. Each has been removed from the ministry. One priest, Fr. James Nowak, is accused of abusing eight (8) of the fourteen victims. Fr. Nowak continued to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Joliet until 2007, and served on the Board of Directors of Montini Catholic H.S. until 2012.
- Boniface Catholic Church (Monee)
- Mary Nativity School (Joliet)
- Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (Bolingbrook)
- Charles Borremeo Seminary (Joliet)
- Dominic Catholic Church (Bolingbrook)
While most of the victims wish to remain anonymous, two victims are willing to speak to the media to discuss their claims on April 16, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. at the office of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, 33 North Dearborn Street, Suite 1430, Chicago, Illinois 60602.