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  Suit: Identify Accused Priests

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
March 1, 2006

http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews/top/4_1_JO01_DIOCESE_S1.htm

JOLIET — Thirty years ago, George Knotek told Joliet Diocese officials that he was sexually abused by a priest. But his abuser remained in ministry at parishes until 2002.

Knotek is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday that seeks to force the diocese to release the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing children.

Knotek, 52, says the Rev. Donald Pock gave him alcohol and sexually abused him in 1970 at Divine Savior Church in Downers Grove. Knotek said he was 16 when he approached the Roman Catholic priest for advice on entering the seminary. About five years later, Knotek said he met with Pock and the late Rev. Raymond Vonesh, an auxiliary bishop, to report the incident.

"(Pock) said: 'If this happened, I'm sorry. I don't remember it, but I do have a problem with drinking,'" Knotek said.

Knotek said that also present at that meeting was his brother, the Rev. Michael Knotek, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Over the years, Knotek said he dealt with the incident privately.

"My brother encouraged me to get counseling, but my approach was to wall it off," he said.

Pock died in 2004. He was removed as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Itasca in 2002 after another man reported that Pock had sexually abused him. Pock was ordained in 1958 and also had served at St. Mary Magdalene in Joliet, Immaculate Conception in Morris, St. Joseph in Joliet, St. Patrick in Joliet and St. Joseph in Manteno.

When George Knotek learned of Pock's removal, he sought help from his brother and contacted Chicago Cardinal Francis George. Knotek sought assurances that his brother's career would not suffer for intervening on his behalf.

Knotek said in a letter to Cardinal George that Vonesh subjected him to a painful and humiliating interrogation in front of Pock, and that the bishop's response amounted to a re-victimizing.

"No agent of the Catholic Church ever offered even an intimation of compassion or any common human kindness," Knotek said in the 2002 letter.

George responded with an apology, but Knotek also had asked how many others Pock had abused. Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch responded in a 2003 letter.

"I think confidentiality would require me not to provide such information," Imesch wrote. "I do feel quite confident, however, in stating that, to my knowledge, there have been no victims since the incident you reported. Perhaps it would be better to say that no other persons have come forward."

Chicago attorney Marc Pearlman, who stood beside Knotek during press conferences in Chicago and Joliet on Tuesday, said the bishop's statement is inaccurate, because at least one other report resulted in Pock's removal.

"This is not a mistake. It's a boldfaced lie and it's indicative of the callousness with which (Imesch) addresses the issue," Pearlman said.

The diocese on Tuesday released a statement saying that in 2002 it shared with prosecutors in Will and DuPage counties files for all priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

"The diocese extends its prayers to the survivors of these sinful and criminal acts. We continue to do everything in our power to protect the children of the Diocese of Joliet," the statement read.

Knotek is not seeking financial damages. Instead, the lawsuit filed in DuPage County Circuit Court seeks the diocese's release of the names of all priests and other employees accused of molesting children since 1950.

It also wants the court to order the diocese not to destroy any documents regarding suspected sexual abuse and to turn over the documents to the court for safekeeping.

"It's bad enough that this culture of abuse has been allowed to continue. But the fact that the church still to this day doesn't come forward with the truth, doesn't look out for the victims. Shame on you. Shame on you. It's a shame," said Knotek, breaking down in tears.

Knotek lives in Minnesota and works for a nonprofit group. The news conferences were organized by his attorneys and the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Knotek's lawsuit — citing media reports and previous litigation — lists the names of 28 priests it says have been accused of sexual misconduct in the Joliet Diocese. In its statement, the diocese said 26 of the priests named have either died or been removed from ministry. One of the others was exonerated and returned to ministry, and the other was not accused of sexually abusing a minor, the diocese said.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in Chicago in late January asking the country's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese to reveal the names of all its priests suspected of abuse over the past 54 years. It was filed after the Rev. Daniel McCormack, a priest from Chicago, was charged with molesting boys.

The Joliet Diocese reported in 2004 that it had received credible reports of sexual abuse by 27 priests, but it did not name the clerics.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Ted Slowik at (815) 729-6053 or at tslowik@scn1.com.

 
 

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