Abuse Victim Sheds Light on Church Secrets
By Ron Magers
March 21, 2013
[STORY: Secret archive contains alleged sex abuse records]
DOCUMENTS: (WARNING: Some viewers may find parts of this material offensive.)
[• Diocese of Joliet's new victim outreach campaign]
[• Father Burnett: Review Committee Allegations]
[• Joliet Diocese Files of Fr. Donald O'Connor ]
The Full Secret Archive File of Fr. Donald O'Connor
[• Part 1]
[• Part 2]
[• Part 3]
[• Part 4]
The man who forced the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet to release its archived files on pedophile and predatory priests was sexually abused by a priest as a child. As an adult, he has fought hard to shed light on the secrets of the church.
"If other people can see that I did it, then it might empower them to do the same thing," said David Rudofski.
At the tender age of 8, Rudofski's life changed. While giving his first confession at St. Mary's parish in Mokena, he says Father James Burnett sexually molested him. Rudofski says he told his mother, but she didn't believe him.
"What happened to me was not her fault," he said. "She has struggled with this a lot and me as a parent, I can imagine that."
Last week, Rudofski won a 7-year-long court battle against the diocese of Joliet. The diocese concluded Rudofski was abused by Father Burnett, though the priest denies the allegations. As part of the settlement Rudofski wanted all of the archived files of pedophile and predatory priests made public.
"If this was known back then, she would have immediately taken every step possible, contacted every authority that she needed to contact and definitely would have gotten to the bottom of it right away," Rudofski said.
Money, he says, was not an issue. At one point he filed a settlement offer requesting no monetary award, only the unlocking of the priests' files. That offer was rejected by the diocese.
The Joliet Diocese website now lists 34 priests that they say have "substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors or who have been credibly accused but whose cases are still pending in the canonical process."
Rudofski was only able to get the files of 15 of the priests, containing more than 7,000 pages, kept from the public for decades.
"It was justice for myself and justice for so many other people," he said. "So, it was really important to tell that story because all of those things that were covered up could have really prevented that from happening to me."
Diocese of Joliet spokesman James Dwyer said the Catholic Church believed they were handling abuse cases correctly at the time.
"We know errors of judgment were made in the past," Dwyer said. "What we need to do is learn from that, and we have, we already have learned a lot from that, and we continue to learn a lot from that, and we're going to do everything that we can to ensure that children are protected in the future."
Wednesday, the Diocese of Joliet announced a new victim outreach campaign on their website.
The newly obtained files were redacted by Rudofski's lawyers to remove the names of victims who do not wish to go public.
Rudofski's lawyers are working on files to remove the names of victims who do not wish to go public and the names of others innocent of any wrongdoing.
And just one day after the I-Team's exclusive report, Wednesday the diocese of Joliet announced a new victim outreach campaign on their web site.