Accused Priest Worked in Joliet: Victim Advocacy Group
By Shannon Antinori
March 6, 2014
A former clergyman who worked in Joliet was included on a list of priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, according to a victim advocacy group.
Last month, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released list of credibly accused priests, including Fr. Kenneth Gansmann, who was pastor of a Minnesota church from 1949 to 1959.
According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Gansmann worked at the St. John the Baptist Friary in Joliet from 1945 to 1948. Back then, the church was still part of the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to Diocese of Joliet Director of Communications Edward Flavin.
"Kenneth Gansmann was not a diocesan priest in Joliet," Flavin told Patch. "Our diocese was erected in 1949." A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago also said it did not have any records on Gansmann, saying he was a member of the order of Franciscan friars.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis revealed that the now-deceased Gansmann was removed from active ministry in 1960 after being accused of molesting a child.
SNAP said Gansmann also served in the Diocese of Springfield.
According to SNAP, a man came forward in 2007, claiming to have been abused by Gansmann in the Archdiocese of St. Paul. Gansmann reportedly died in 1974.
Flavin said the Diocese of Joliet has never received any reports of alleged abuse by Gansmann.
In a press release, SNAP officials called for Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon to "use his vast resources to seek out any other who may have seen, suspect, or suffered abuse" at Gansmann's hands in Joliet.
“He had access to hundreds of children every year. It is never too late to report abuse,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “We hope those who are suffering in silence will find the courage to speak up. And we hope Joliet's bishop will gently but firmly prod them to do so.”
Barbara Blaine, SNAP founder and president, said victims often stay silent until someone in a position of authority urges them to come forward.
“Fr. Gansmann's victims are likely getting older," Blaine said. "They were children in a time when children were expected to never question adults, so it's likely they're still carrying this horrible burden alone. Catholic officials can and should gently but firmly prod them to break their silence and start healing.”
In a post on its website, the Diocese of Joliet urges those who have been sexually abused by clergy to come forward.
"We recognize that the release of this information may prompt people who were abused in the past to speak of it now for the first time," the diocese said. "The Diocese of Joliet has long urged anyone who may have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the diocese to report the abuse to civil authorities and to us. We remain committed to bring healing to survivors and to bringing the abusers to justice."
Victims are urged to report abuse to any pastor or call the Diocese of Joliet victim assistance coordinator at 815-263-6467.