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  Joliet Diocese Hit with More Allegations of Sex Abuse

By Ted Slowik
Daily Southtown [Joliet IL]
March 3, 2006

http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southtown/dsnews/032abn7.htm

The Diocese of Joliet was hit with three more lawsuits Thursday, all filed by men alleging they were sexually abused by priests when they were altar boys and students at the Cathedral of St. Raymond.

Two of the men allege they were molested by the Rev. Larry Mullins, and the third cites sexual abuse by the Rev. Anthony J. Ross.

This brings the number of lawsuits pending against the diocese to at least nine, including one class-action. At least three other lawsuits were dismissed on statute of limitations grounds before an appellate court ruled that decades-old allegations of abuse could continue when victims didn't fully understand the harm caused until later in life.

One of the three new plaintiffs, George Fehrenbacher, alleges Mullins' abuse included an incident at his family's home. The lawsuit said the parents had asked Mullins there to talk to another son, Christopher, who previously has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by Mullins.

"Mullins had been invited by plaintiff's unwitting parents to assist in counseling plaintiff's younger brother Christopher, who was himself also being sexually victimized by Mullins," the new lawsuit states.

Fehrenbacher and another man identified only as Benedict Doe also allege that Mullins fondled and molested them on several occasions at the school, in the sacristy of the church and most frequently in Mullins' private quarters in the rectory at St. Raymond's.

"The predatory culture at St. Raymond is well-documented," said Joliet attorney Michael Bolos, who is representing the three men.

The third new plaintiff says he was abused by Mullins, reported the incident to Ross and ended up being abused by Ross at a parish in Itasca after the priest served alcohol to the boy.

"Unfortunately, while fleeing the clutches of one predator, he unknowingly leaped into the hands of another," Bolos said.

The man is identified as Adam Doe in the lawsuit. He told his story to The Herald News of Joliet in 2002, and Ross publicly admitted to the abuse and apologized to the man and his family.

After the incident, Ross wrote letters to the then-17-year-old boy from a California treatment center for priests who had sexually abused minors. In the letters, Ross asked the boy to take pictures of himself naked and sent the boy a Valentine's Day card.

"This was so cute. You were the first special little guy I thought of. With lots of love, Fr. Ross," a handwritten note says on the card.

The boy's parents discovered the letters and confronted Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch in 1983. Upon completing treatment for pedophilia, Ross, however, was assigned by Imesch to three more parishes in DuPage County over the next 10 years.

In 1993, the man confronted Imesch and demanded that Ross no longer serve as a priest. Imesch responded by transferring Ross to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., where the priest served as a prison chaplain until the man went public with his story in 2002. Ross' work in California included closed-door sessions with juveniles at a detention center.

Each lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Both of the accused clerics remain priests, though they may not wear the Roman Catholic collar, celebrate Mass in public or identify themselves with titles such as "reverend" or "father."

At last word, Ross had appealed to the Vatican to be removed from administrative leave and reinstated as a priest in good standing. Mullins is the executive director of Independent Electrical Contractors, a trade association based in the Washington, D.C.-area.

 
 

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