Sex-Abuse Suit against Diocese Is Dismissed

By Emily McFarlan
Beacon News
September 26, 2007,2_1_AU26_PRIEST_S1.article

A DuPage County judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet involving a former pastor of SS Peter and Paul Parish in Naperville.

The suit accusing the Rev. James Burnett of sexual abuse was dropped this week after attorneys failed by Friday to appeal an earlier ruling by Judge Stephen Culliton.

In June, Culliton ruled a state law passed in 2003 to extend the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases could not be applied retroactively to old allegations and set the Friday deadline for new evidence to keep the suit alive.

In March, the diocese's review board determined the allegation related to the lawsuit was not credible.

"We're very pleased. This is what we had hoped for and prayed for and, quite honestly, expected," said Marty Szczech, business manager at SS Peter and Paul. "He was a great pastor when he was here. People were really shocked when these allegations came out."

The suit, filed last year by 36-year-old Dan Shanahan of Phoenix, alleged Burnett molested Shanahan repeatedly from ages 8 to 12 while Shanahan attended St. Mary Church in Mokena.

Burnett, a Roselle native, had previously been a priest at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bensenville.

He was rector at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet when the accusations surfaced in February 2006, and the diocese placed him on administrative leave.

Shanahan's attorney said he was disappointed by the judge's ruling.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.