Chicago Archdiocese Removes Pastor from List of Accused Priests
By John Keilman
August 22, 2014
The former pastor of Schaumburg's St. Matthew Catholic Church has been removed from a list of priests facing substantiated accusations of sexual misconduct, but a lawsuit in which a man claims the priest abused him as a child is still moving ahead.
The Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed in February that Joseph Wilk had been added to the public list of priests facing allegations that a review board deems credible. The confirmation came about nine months after a young man named Donnie Ophus filed a lawsuit accusing Wilk of sexual abuse.
Ophus, now 29, claimed in the lawsuit that Wilk abused him from the ages of 10 to 18. He told the Tribune in an interview this year that Wilk had paid him to keep quiet, but he did tell his father, who reported the allegation to church officials.
Susan Burritt, an archdiocese spokeswoman, said a supplementary review convinced the board that investigates abuse allegations that there was "insufficient reason to suspect that … Wilk engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor."
The archdiocese removed Wilk from the list July 24, the first time such an action has been taken, Burritt said.
She offered no details about why the board took another look at the case or why it reached its decision.
Patrick Bradley, who represents Ophus in the lawsuit, said the case against Wilk and the archdiocese is still active. The most recent hearing was Tuesday.
"The sad part is now the focus is on this very troubled boy and that the focus has been taken off the priest," Bradley said.
Ophus could not be reached for comment. Wilk said archdiocese officials asked him not to speak about the case, and under obedience, he would adhere to their wishes.
Wilk worked at St. Matthew from 1989 to 2006. Burritt said his last assignment, at Chicago's St. Cornelius Parish, ended in 2008. He resigned from the priesthood in 2010. He has not been charged with a crime.