Diocese, Ex-Priest Hurl Accusations

Associated Press Online
September 5, 2002

The Diocese of Peoria and a former priest have accused each other of lying in statements to the media regarding a defamation lawsuit the priest filed after he was accused of sexually abusing girls.

Edward Bush, 71, was one of seven priests asked to step down in April amid the allegations. He is suing for more than $50,000 in damages, though he says he wants only to clear his name.

Among other things, Bush complained in the suit filed Wednesday that he was never told of the allegations or given the opportunity to defend himself, and that the victims suffer from repressed memories.

Bishop Daniel Jenky and Vice Chancellor Patricia Gibson said in a statement Thursday that they discussed the charges with Bush and that he never denied them. They also said he agreed to resign from active ministry.

Jenky said he, his staff and a review board found credible accusations made by two adult women who claimed Bush abused them in grade school.

"He knows who the victims are and the details of the actions accusing him of sexual misconduct," Gibson said.

Bush's lawyer said the church officials' Thursday statement might become part of his client's defamation lawsuit.

"The press release not only contains many inaccuracies, but also statements that further injure my client's good reputation," attorney Aldo Botti said.

The lawsuit names the diocese and church officials as defendants.

Around the nation, at least one other priest has sued his diocese for defamation and several have filed lawsuits against their accusers. One has filed a defamation claim under church law.

About 300 priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston early this year.

In other developments Thursday:

-In Lawrence, Kan., a Roman Catholic priest who served in several Kansas parishes pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teen-age boy in 1998 and 1999. The Rev. Dennis Schmitz, 41, is to be sentenced Oct. 18 and will be removed from the priesthood.

-In San Diego, a former altar boy accused a retired priest of sexually abusing him during two cross-country trips to New Hampshire 25 years ago. The priest has denied the allegations.


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