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  Priest Denies Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

By Michael Miller
Copley News Service
May 23, 2002

A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria has denied allegations of sexual misconduct recently made against him.

The Rev. Gregory Plunkett, pastor of St. Catherine's Parish in Aledo, has been accused of exposing himself to a teen-ager and fondling the boy nearly 20 years ago in Cambridge.

"He emphatically, 100 percent denies this," Plunkett's attorney, Philip Steele of Alpha, said Thursday.

Plunkett remains pastor of St. Catherine's while the diocese conducts an investigation into the complaint it received last month. No criminal complaint has been made by the alleged victim.

According to the allegation made by Daniel Koenigs, now 34 and living in Monticello near Champaign, the incident occurred several years before Plunkett's 1988 ordination as a priest. Koenigs also has said he was molested by two other priests of the diocese, both of whom resigned from public ministry in 1993.

But a member and former trustee of Plunkett's church who has known the priest for several years said the accusations don't fit the man he knows.

"I've known (Plunkett) ever since he was a child," Deane Frye of Aledo said Wednesday. "He was different, unusual, but nothing that would lead" to the actions of which he's accused. "He has a personality all of his own."

Plunkett hasn't had much involvement with the children of the parish, which has about 100 active families, Frye said. "In fact, if anything, we tried to get him to be more involved with children," he said. "That was not his forte.

"He likes to be involved in the Mass, and he's very good as, like, an interior decorator in the church, but other than that, that's about what he does. I never saw anything that would lead to this at all, not even close."

Other St. Catherine's families did not return calls seeking comment.

Diocesan spokeswoman Kate Kenny said the allegation against Plunkett, first made to the diocese in early April, is the only one currently under investigation by the diocese.

She also clarified that allegations of recent misconduct, incidents that occurred within the statute of limitations, by priests or other diocesan employees would be reported to police immediately upon being reported to diocesan officials.

A commission recently appointed by Bishop Daniel Jenky also will investigate all charges and make recommendations to the bishop regarding diocesan handling of individual cases, especially involving incidents that happened so long ago they can't be prosecuted.

In Illinois, the statute of limitations on charges of sexual abuse of a minor by a non-family member is 10 years after the victim reaches 18, if authorities are notified before the victim reaches age 21.

Kenny also disagreed with Koenigs' statement to the Journal Star this week that the diocese hasn't been very supportive of him.

"We are very responsive to him and are very much in communication with him," she said.

Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., formerly bishop of Peoria, has been in Washington, D.C., this week as part of an ad hoc committee planning the agenda and discussion points on the sexual abuse issue when it comes up at the U.S. bishops meeting in mid- June.

 
 

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