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  3 Suits Blame Diocese for Priests' Sex Abuse

By Jerry Shnay
Chicago Tribune
August 17, 1993

For more than 20 years, Roman Catholic priest Myles Patrick White tried to conceal his secret obsession as he ministered to congregations from Hinsdale to Kankakee.

It is concealed no longer. White is in prison at the Joliet Correctional

Center, serving time for sexual offenses, but the Joliet Diocese and some of his victims are still feeling the effects.

The diocese is facing three lawsuits over the White case. The victims and their families, who insist that church officials "knew or should have known" about the priest's conduct and stopped him, are filing them.

One of those seeking retribution is a boy, called John Roe in court records, whose abuse by White led to the priest's downfall. John Roe met White when he was 6 years old and White, active in youth counseling at the time, was serving as pastor of St. Boniface Church in Monee.

White allegedly encouraged the boy to spend nights with him, and when the youth was a 14-year-old high school freshman in 1989, the two began having sex.

Those acts continued in Illinois and at White's residence in Culver, Ind., until White was arrested in Indiana in 1992 and charged with a number of sexual offenses.

White ended up pleading guilty in both states to molesting the youth and is serving a 4-year prison term.

The youth and his mother recently filed suit against White and the diocese for what they say is a failure to monitor the former priest's activities.

In papers filed in the Will County Courthouse, family lawyer Joseph G. Klest alleges the diocese and its bishop, Joseph Imesch, should have stopped White.

At the same time, Klest filed a similar suit on behalf of another plaintiff, called Jim Doe, 29, who says he was the victim of illicit sexual contact when he was teenager.

In December, the diocese and White were named as defendants in a $5 million suit filed by Klest for a couple who claim their son suffered similar abuse more than 20 years ago that eventually led to his suicide.

The suits come in the wake of growing concern among Catholics that church officials have failed to respond quickly enough to these crises.

Some had called for Pope John Paul II to address the situation during his visit in Denver.

But speaking Saturday at McNichols Sports Arena, the pope was ambiguous on the problem. He did not make a strong apology to victims, nor did he offer any solutions. Nonetheless, it was significant as his first acknowledgment of the problem in a public address.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of the Chicago Archdiocese has taken a more active role. In 1992, he released a special commission's recommendations for reforming the sexual-abuse policies of the archdiocese. At the same time, he announced that 13 priests involved in sexual -misconduct cases would be removed from parishes.

White's case was the third in the last six years in which a Joliet Diocesan priest had been removed after allegations of sexual abuse.

In 1987, Rev. Edward Stefanich, the former pastor of St. Scholastica Parish in Woodridge, resigned from the priesthood after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

Rev. Henry Slade, former pastor of St. Isidore's Parish in Bloomingdale, pleaded guilty in 1990 to sexually abusing an 18-year-old man with cerebral palsy.

Since then, a suit filed against Slade and the diocese was settled.

Klest said he has not determined a dollar amount he would seek from the diocese, but in the Roe and Doe suits, he asked for damages of $15,000 or $30,000, and whatever else a jury wanted.

In the suits, Klest alleges that on occasion before his arrest, the diocese chancellory office did nothing after being told that White had engaged in illicit sexual conduct.

That, Klest said, created an atmosphere where White felt free "to commit acts of sexual abuse without fear of prosecution."

White's obsession came to light when he became the focus of an investigation in 1992 after he donated a videotape of a local parade that was sold at a Culver flea market.

The man who purchased the tape was a friend of the Marshall County deputy prosecutor, and he informed officials that while viewing the tape he noticed a short gap and then saw 30 minutes of an earlier taping where White was having sex with a youth.

That boy is John Roe.

When police came to arrest White, they said he was trying to destroy photographs of young men. They also confiscated some pornographic magazines and videos.

Kankakee police said they discovered similar items in White's rectory bedroom at St. Martin of Tours Parish.

In the second suit, Jim Doe said his pants were "stripped" by White in front of others in 1980 or 1981 and two years later, White fondled the plaintiff's genitals.

White was ordained in 1968 and served as associate pastor at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale, Sacred Heart Church in Lombard and Notre Dame Church in Clarendon Hills before becoming pastor of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Monee in 1978.

In the suit filed in December, White is charged with abusing a teenaged boy between 1967 and 1972. In 1990, the victim, 36, committed suicide.

James C. Byrne, attorney for the Joliet diocese, declined to comment on the suits.

 
 

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