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  Lawsuits Filed in Peoria against Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Michael Miller
Copley News Service
November 30, 2005
Nine civil lawsuits accusing five priests and one nun of sexual abuse were filed Wednesday, hours after alleged victims demanded more "transparency" by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

The lawsuits were filed against the diocese, the clergy members and the parishes where they worked. Some of the alleged incidents, dating as far back as the 1950s, occurred in Peoria and Tazewell counties.

Priests named in the lawsuits were the Revs. Norman Goodman, Walter Breuning, Edward Bush, Toussaint J. Perron and Louis Condon. All of them previously had been removed from public ministry by the diocese, in some cases because of allegations brought by some of those bringing the new lawsuits, diocesan officials said.

Criminal charges have only been brought against Perron, who served three years in prison in the 1990s for sexual assault. It was unclear whether that case involved the man now accusing him.

Condon, now 83 and living in Moline, denied the allegations Wednesday. The diocese said he had been removed from ministry for reasons not related to sexual misconduct allegations.

Bush's attorney, Aldo Botti, said his client was innocent of the allegations. Goodman's attorneys could not be reached. Breuning also couldn't be reached.

Also named in one of the lawsuits was "Sister Mary Jane," accused of sexually assaulting a girl in the early 1960s at St. Patrick's Catholic School in Washington. Attorney Frederic Nessler, whose firm filed the lawsuits, wasn't able to give a last name for the nun. The diocese, in a written statement Wednesday, said, "At this point, the plaintiff's attorneys have not provided sufficient information to the diocese to determine the identity of Sister Mary Jane."'

Each suit filed Wednesday contains several counts of abuse and negligence asking for the minimum $50,000 per count.

Nessler would not comment on whether his clients and the diocese had been in negotiations, other than to say, "We wished to amicably conclude the cases; we weren't able to."

Diocesan attorney and chancellor Patricia Gibson said diocesan officials "seriously question whether it would be a prudent use of diocesan assets to meet the monetary demands often placed on the diocese in abuse cases."

"The Diocese of Peoria takes seriously our obligations to victims but also must consider the needs of the entire faithful in the Diocese of Peoria," Gibson said in a statement. "The bishop remains faithful to his promise that all victims of abuse will be offered professional counseling for as long as needed. This alone is an enormous financial commitment that Bishop Jenky will continue to uphold."

The lawsuits were filed in Peoria County Circuit Court after a press conference held by two alleged victims, a victims' group president, family members and other supporters. The gathering was held in the 600 block of Northeast Madison Avenue across the street from the diocesan chancery, where Jenky lives and has his office.

At the press conference, Barbara A. Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, demanded that the names of all clergy members accused of sexual abuse be posted on the Peoria diocese's Web site.

"Neighbors who reside close to these men and woman have a right to know," she said.

"Bishop Jenky has a beautiful policy" to deal with victims and allegations of abuse, Blaine said, but "victims don't feel the compassion and respect promised in the policy."

She said Jenky should take a more proactive approach by "reaching out" to victims and visiting parishes where abuse has taken place.

The diocesan statement said Jenky has taken proper steps in dealing with the issue and has made the names of accused priests public on various occasions.

"Bishop Jenky remains committed to his belief that the only way for authentic healing to occur is for victims of abuse to participate in professional counseling," chancellor Gibson said.

Jeffrey Jones and Joseph Jones, two brothers who filed separate lawsuits and said they were sexually abused by Breuning in the 1960s and '70s while they were members of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pekin, fought tears as they discussed their claims at the press conference.

"I felt dirty, embarrassed and guilty" after the alleged abuse that occurred between 1964 and 1971, Jeffrey Jones, now 52, said Wednesday.

Married with two children, Jeffrey Jones lives in Rockford.

"I don't want anybody to be abused like I was abused," he said, holding up a photo he said showed himself and Breuning.

Joseph Jones, a 55-year-old unemployed nurse, said he was abused one time in the mid-1960s, but it has led to problems such as chronic insomnia and low self-esteem.

"I would just hope the bishop would take a Christian approach to this and do the right thing," he said.

SIDEBAR

SEX ALLEGATIONS

Nine civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by five priests and one nun were filed in Peoria County Circuit Court on Wednesday. The suits were filed against the clergy members, parishes they were assigned to during the time of the alleged abuse, and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

The priests

- The Rev. Edward Bush, accused by Jean Anderson, 54, of sexual assault in 1964 or 1965 when she was 13 or 14 years old and a student at St. Thomas Catholic School in Peoria Heights. Bush was removed from public ministry in 2002.

- The Rev. Louis Condon, accused by Mary Krusz, 55, of sexual assault between 1958 and 1960 when she was 6 to 9 years old and a student at St. Mary's Catholic School in Lincoln. Condon retired from ministry in 1986 and has been removed from public ministry.

- Monsignor Norman Goodman, accused by Krusz of sexual assault between 1961 and 1974 while she was a member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, now Holy Family Catholic Church, in Lincoln; accused by Daniel Williams, 40, of sexual assault between 1975 and 1979 when he was 11 to 15 years old and a member of Holy Family in Lincoln; and accused by Donald Schroyer, 40, of sexual assault between 1975 and 1979 when he was 10 to 15 years old and a member of Holy Family in Lincoln. Goodman has been removed from public ministry.

- The Rev. Walter Breuning, accused by Ron Ver Straete, 52, of sexual assault between 1964 and 1970 while he was a member of St. Anthony's Church in Atkinson and St. Augustine Catholic Church in St. Augustine; accused by Joseph Jones, 55, of Pekin of sexual assault once between 1963 and 1967 when he was 13 to 17 years old and a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Pekin; and accused by Jeffrey Jones, 52, of Rockford of sexual assault between 1964 and 1971 when he was 11 to 17 years old and a member of St. Joseph's. Breuning was removed from public ministry in 2002.

- The Rev. Toussaint J. Perron, accused by Joseph Sims Jr., 40, of sexual assault between 1982 and 1984 when he was 16 to 17 years old and a member of St. John's Catholic Church in Galva. Perron has been removed from public ministry and served three years in prison for sexual assault.

The nun

- Sister Mary Jane, last name unknown, accused by Lisa M. Kyker, 51, of sexual assault between 1960 and 1961 when she was 6 to 7 years old and a student at St. Patrick's Catholic School in Washington. The nun's current situation is unknown.

 
 

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