Shaken Church Meets
Mass after Hard Week: Catholics Discuss Removals in Joliet Diocese
By Charla Brautigam
The Herald News
April 14, 2002
JOLIET — The day after a priest from the Joliet Diocese was removed from his post amid allegations of sexual misconduct, parishioners at one area church expressed resounding support for the Catholic church's decision.
"At least they're taking action," said Craig Booth, a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet. "That's what you want to see."
"They're being very open and forthright," agreed another parishioner, who declined to give his name. "That's exactly what they should be doing."
On Friday, the Diocese of Joliet removed the Rev. Phillip Dedera from his ministries after a man, who is now in his 40s, stepped forward and accused the priest of sexual misconduct in the mid-1970s.
The Herald News, which has repeatedly requested additional information about the alleged incident, has been unsuccessful in its attempts.
Dedera most recently served as the chaplain at Edward Hospital in Naperville, where he often would visit patients, give Communion and say Mass.
Hospital administrators were informed Friday morning that Dedera would no longer be reporting there.
The diocese also contacted St. Patrick's Residence, a nursing home in Naperville, where Dedera was chaplain for six years.
In a letter distributed to all 132 parishes this weekend, Bishop Joseph Imesch encouraged people who were abused to "come forward" and receive professional counseling assistance" from the diocese.
A copy of the letter was printed in Saturday's Herald News.
"The sexual abuse of individuals is both harmful and sinful," Imesch wrote in the letter, which also was published in church bulletins this weekend.
"The reports of clerical sexual abuse are not only disturbing to the faithful, they are also damaging and embarrassing to the vast majority of our good priests who have committed themselves to daily service of our people," he continued. "We need to support priests whose ministry has been diminished by the terrible acts of a few priests."
The Rev. Joseph Siegel asked his parishioners at the Cathedral of St. Raymond on Saturday night to read the letter.
He did not address the letter during his homily, however, opting to discuss the church's annual diocesan appeal for pledges.
The church's goal, as established by the Diocese of Joliet, is to raise $88,125 to support Catholic Charities, Catholic education and various ministry services.
"Please be as generous as you can," Siegel told his congregation.
Toward the end of Saturday's Mass, Siegel expressed sympathy for the victims of sexual abuse and told parishioners that he and St. Raymond's parish staff are "hurt" by the "failings of our brother priests."
Dedera isn't the first clergy member from the Joliet Diocese to come under public scrutiny recently.
Earlier this week, the Rev. Gary Berthiaume, who worked as a chaplain at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, was removed from his post after it came to light that he had been convicted of sexually abusing a child in Michigan 24 years ago.
And Brother Robert Murphy, director of campus ministry at Lewis University, stepped down from his post after telling Lewis officials that he received counseling for inappropriate behavior with minors more than 15 years ago.
Murphy was later removed from the Board of Members at Joliet Catholic Academy, which makes most of the policy decisions for the school.
Even though Imesch has encouraged people to contact church officials if they have been a victim of similar abuse, several parishioners at St. Raymond's encouraged people to contact law enforcement officials first.
"Otherwise, there's that perception of inappropriate response," said one parishioner who declined to give his name.
Charla Brautigam can be reached at (815) 729-6079, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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