Joliet Priest Accused of Abuse Put on Leave

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
February 8, 2006

Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, placed the rector of the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet on administrative leave Tuesday amid allegations that the priest sexually abused a boy more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. James Burnett, rector of the cathedral since 2003, had been "monitored" by another priest and a staff member since just before Christmas 2005, when allegations of abuse were brought to the diocese, a spokesman for Imesch said in a statement.

Dan Shanahan, 34, of Phoenix, a former Marine, has accused Burnett of molesting him from 1978 to 1983 at St. Mary's parish in Mokena, beginning when Shanahan was 8.

Thomas Kerber, spokesman for the Joliet diocese, said that when the allegations first arose, Burnett was told not to have any contact with children and the allegations were given to a diocesan review board. Shanahan's allegations also were brought to the attention of the Will County state's attorney.

"Dan suffered in silence until about three months ago when he mustered the courage to tell his sister," said Shanahan's attorney, Jeff Anderson.

Shanahan's sister, Christine McGovern of Chicago, brought the allegations to Imesch, who she says dismissed them, Anderson said.

It was during a news conference Tuesday in Chicago that Imesch announced he was removing Burnett pending the outcome of the diocesan investigation.

Also Tuesday, the Chicago Province of the Jesuit religious order announced that a Kentucky priest who had served in the Chicago area has been removed from ministry after an investigation of a complaint of sexual abuse involving a teenage boy in Peru about 30 years ago.

The Rev. William J. Spine, who was pastor of Chicago's Holy Family parish from 1986 to 1991 and also served at Loyola University's Hispanic House, was removed last week.


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