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  Joliet Priest Accused in Sex Lawsuit

By David Uhler
Chicago Tribune
January 21, 1993

A Joliet priest was suspended temporarily from his duties Wednesday by the Joliet Diocese after a lawsuit was filed by a 28-year-old man who charged he was sexually assaulted 12 years ago by the priest.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Will County Circuit Court, named as defendants two priests - Rev. David Stalzer of Joliet, who was suspended Wednesday, and Rev. Lawrence M. Gibbs, who was suspended earlier this month after he was named in a similar lawsuit.

The plaintiff in the latest case was identified only as John Doe, and alleged that he required $3 million worth of therapy and counseling after the assaults by the two priests.

It was the third lawsuit in a month filed against the diocese alleging sexual abuse, and the second in two weeks against Gibbs. Both suits also name Bishop Joseph L. Imesch as a defendant because of his supervisory responsibility over the priests as head of the Joliet Diocese.

Gibbs, 48, previously has been removed from his position as director of campus ministry for the diocese and his residency at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Naperville.

Stalzer, who is pastor of St. Mary's Nativity in Joliet, denied the allegations when contacted by telephone Wednesday.

"This is unbelievable," he said. "Who's saying all of this? I can't believe this."

In a statement released later in the day, the chancellor of the diocese, Sister Judith Davies, said Stalzer temporarily has been relieved of his duties in accordance with diocesan policy.

"We are deeply distressed by this allegation and are committed to investigate this matter thoroughly," she said. "We offer our support and prayers to all those involved at this difficult time."

The assaults detailed in the latest lawsuit allegedly occurred in 1981 when the plaintiff was 16 and a member of St. Joseph Church in Lockport, where Gibbs was stationed at the time. The boy sang in the parish choir and also at St. Dennis Church in Lockport, where Stalzer lived and worked.

According to the suit, the boy was assaulted by Gibbs in the St. Joseph parish rectory and later in a cabin he owned at Wonder Lake in McHenry County.

During the one-day trip to the cabin, Gibbs ordered the boy to drink whiskey and watch a pornographic movie before having sex with him against his will, according to the suit. Later, the priest warned the boy not to tell anyone because "your family will have all the trouble," the suit alleges.

The alleged assault by Stalzer occurred after the priest approached the young boy outside St. Dennis Church and asked whether he wanted to go to Chicago for dinner. The boy's parents gave permission for the trip, but instead of driving to Chicago, Stalzer took the boy to the parish rectory and had sex with him, the suit alleges. The boy did not resist, and the priest did not warn him to keep quiet about it, according to the suit.

 
 

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