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  Joliet Ousts Another Priest in Abuse Case
Diocese Removes Coal City Pastor

By Shia Kapos
Chicago Tribune
May 19, 2002

The Catholic Diocese of Joliet removed Rev. Donald O'Connor from his position as pastor at Assumption Catholic Church in Coal City on Saturday after learning of allegations that he sexually abused an adolescent boy more than 30 years ago.

The victim made the allegations after reading a letter from Bishop Joseph Imesch encouraging victims to come forward, according to Sister Judith Davies, chancellor of the diocese.

She said the man reported the abuse Tuesday, the allegations were substantiated and O'Connor was removed from the ministry Saturday.

The abuse occurred sometime between 1967 and 1970 when O'Connor was an associate pastor at Assumption, according to the diocese.

"There have been no prior allegations reported to us involving this priest," Davies said.

The 65-year-old pastor had served at several other parishes within the Joliet diocese, including St. Rose in Wilmington from 1964 to 1966 and 1970 to 1975; Sacred Heart in Lombard from 1966 to 1967; Immaculate Conception in Braidwood from 1975 to 1987; and St. Bernard's in Joliet from 1987 to 1999.

He has been the head pastor since 1999 at Assumption, in Grundy County's Coal City.

Rev. Donald Harkabus, a retired priest who has worked as an assistant to O'Connor, said he was stunned by the removal.

"He's the most pastoral pastor I have ever known," said Harkabus, describing O'Connor's dedication to his faith as well as to his parishioners. "Whatever comes of this ... he remains an inspiration. He has taught me a lot."

Parishioners at Assumption's 5 p.m. Saturday mass were read a letter from Imesch explaining O'Connor's removal.

"As part of our commitment to protect children, I have asked all victims of sexual misconduct by priests to come forward so we can investigate the allegations and remove priests who may pose a threat to children," Imesch wrote.

The bishop has faced criticism that he failed to do enough to protect young people from abusive priests. He recently agreed to give state prosecutors church records on 16 priests accused of molesting children. Besides O'Connor, he has removed 10 priests from public ministry in recent weeks.

 
 

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