Archdiocese Substantiates Claim against Ex-priest
By Chicago Tribune
Manya Brachear Pashman
February 5, 2014
|Joseph Wilk, the former pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Schaumburg, in 1998. (John Dziekan, Chicago Tribune / February 25, 1998)|
The Chicago Archdiocese has updated its list of clergy who have substantiated allegations of abuse against them to include a former Roman Catholic priest who was sued last May over claims of child sexual abuse.
Joseph Wilk, the former pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Schaumburg, was accused in a suit filed in May of abusing Donnie Ophus starting in 1995, when he was 10 years old. Abuse continued after Ophus turned 18, according to the suit.
Archdiocese officials on Wednesday confirmed the addition of Wilk's name to an online list of dozens of priests who have substantiated claims of abuse against them.
The suit claims that Wilk provided alcohol to Ophus and on two occasions in 2002 gave him $200 or $300. In an interview with the Tribune, Ophus said he threatened to go to authorities in 2003 if the priest didn't give him $3,000. The priest gave him the money but made him agree in writing that he would not report the abuse to law enforcement or church authorities, Ophus said.
Ophus, now 28, said he kept the abuse to himself for about six years. But shortly before he began serving a year behind bars for theft and other crimes in March 2010, he told his father, who reported the abuse to the archdiocese. Nothing was ever done to follow up and the case became inactive 180 days later, said the plaintiff's attorney, Patrick Bradley.
Wilk resigned from the priesthood in September 2010, according to the archdiocese. He could not be reached for comment. His lawyer Joseph Roddy said his client's resignation had nothing to do with the initial allegation. Wilk denies the accusations in the suit, Roddy said.
Ophus said he learned last month that the archdiocese had substantiated his allegation against Wilk. That news came at the same time that documents detailing abuse allegations against 30 other priests became public.
"That was some of the best news I've gotten since this whole thing has started," said Ophus, now a father of three. "It's a very good feeling. When I was in high school, I felt no one would believe me. In the back of my mind, that's always been part of my struggle."
In addition to St. Matthew, Wilk served at St. Cornelius and Queen of All Saints parishes in Chicago.