Suit Alleges Sex Abuse by Ex-Elmhurst Priest in '70s

By Karen Mellen
Chicago Tribune
October 8, 2002

A Florida man has sued a former priest at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Elmhurst and the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, alleging he was molested as a boy in the 1970s.

James Fonck, now 37, claims in a lawsuit filed Friday in Will County Circuit Court that Rev.

Michael Gibbney molested him when Gibbney was associate pastor of the Elmhurst church, said Keith Aeschliman, Fonck's attorney. The suit contends the abuse occurred in 1978 and 1979.

Aeschliman represents about 20 victims who say they were abused by 12 priests in the Joliet diocese.

The latest lawsuit is nearly identical to earlier suits and alleges the priest committed battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit also names Bishop Joseph L. Imesch, as trustee for the diocese, and claims negligent hiring, negligent retention or supervision, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

According to a statement from the diocese, Gibbney has not served in any priestly ministry since 1992. He was ordained in 1975 and served at Immaculate Conception Church, Visitation Church and Mary Queen of Heaven Church, all in Elmhurst.

In 1981, he was transferred to St. Isidore Church in Bloomingdale and later to St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bensenville.

His last assignment at a church was at Immaculate Conception in Morris, from 1991 to 1992, Aeschliman said.

Gibbney could not be reached for comment.

The diocesan statement said church officials had reviewed the complaint and will "cooperate in any investigation by civil authorities."


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