More Allegations in Diocese
Another Removal: Kentucky Preacher, California Priest Have Ties to Joliet

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
April 17, 2002

JOLIET — Allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Joliet Diocese continue to mount, and families of survivors are expressing outrage about how diocesan officials responded to the complaints years ago.

For the fourth time this month, a religious figure associated with the diocese has been removed from his ministry because of a new claim about past abuse.

Also, the Archdiocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., said Tuesday it was investigating a credible claim of past sexual abuse against a former Joliet priest, the Rev. Anthony J. Ross, also known as Anthony J. Rossi.

Ross case

Ross ministers to adult prisoners as head of the California diocese's detention ministry, said Diedre Frontczak, director of communications.

But Cora Guy, Sonoma County chief probation officer, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Ross also has worked in the juvenile detention hall. The only visit Ross recorded during the past two years was in December, for a confession. In such confessions, priests are granted a measure of privacy, such as in a conference room with an open door, she said. Guy has temporarily pulled Ross's access from the hall.

Ross served at St. Ray's in Joliet during the 1970s and at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Itasca until 1982, when the Joliet Diocese sent him to California to undergo counseling.

Another priest who served at St. Ray's and was a defendant in a civil suit alleging sexual abuse, the late Rev. Richard Ruffalo, also served at St. Peter's in the 1960s, the parish secretary said.

Reaction from the St. Raymond community, the hub of the Joliet Diocese and home parish to many prominent Joliet families, ranges from sorrow and sadness to shock and disbelief.

"It's like when there's an alcoholic in the family who abused a spouse. People are looking at all of this, and they know it is happening, but they just don't want to talk about it," said Sister Lorraine Crawford, pastoral associate. "It is the day of cleansing."

Ross met with Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh on Tuesday morning, Frontczak said. The archdiocese's sensitivity committee will review the claim.

Ross did not return calls seeking comment.

But his brother, the Rev. Richard Ross of St. Bernard's in Joliet, angrily lashed out at people who are breaking the silence about past abuse.

"I don't have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn't stop whatever happened," Richard Ross said. "I'll take all of these people who were abused and I'll abuse them myself with a baseball bat. You can quote me on that."

Santa Rosa has been plagued by sex scandals. Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann resigned in disgrace in 2000 after admitting to a two-year sexual affair with a priest. A Ukiah, Calif., nun, Sister Jane Kelly, exposed the scandal.

On Tuesday, a California jury found the Rev. Don Kimball, 58, innocent of raping a 14-year-old girl, but guilty of two counts of lewd conduct involving the molestation of a 13-year-old girl in 1981. The diocese says it has spent $7.4 million on settlements, counseling and attorney's fees on sex abuse cases.

Joliet Diocese case

Also Tuesday, the Joliet Diocese said it has placed the Rev. Carroll Howlin on administrative leave. Howlin, who was 67 in December, once served at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Joliet, but has been stationed in Kentucky for the past 25 years.

Howlin, who taught at a seminary at the St. Charles Borromeo Center near Lockport, is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy between January and July 1975. The alleged abuse happened both at the seminary and in Kentucky, the diocese said in a statement.

Howlin would take trips to Kentucky with high-school-aged boys studying at the now-closed seminary.

The abuse survivor, now 44, is a married father of three and lives in a western state. He recently told his parents that Howlin sexually abused him, and the parents met last week with Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Joliet diocese.

Imesch contacted Howlin on Friday and told him that he was removing him from public ministry, but Imesch allowed Howlin to celebrate a final Mass on Sunday. The Joliet Diocese also notified Bishop Kendrick Williams of the Lexington Diocese in Kentucky.

"During Father Howlin's service in the Diocese of Lexington, no formal complaint of sexual misconduct has been made against him," the Lexington Diocese said in a statement.

Howlin, known as "Preacher Pud," served in rural, impoverished McCreary County. He was pastor of Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City and ran the Good Shepherd Mission, which operates a food pantry and clothing resale shop and provides education and counseling for drug and alcohol abuse.

In December, Herald News columnist John Whiteside wrote that many Joliet-area Catholics donated food, clothing and other supplies to the mission and that some helped build homes there.

Although Howlin ministered in the Lexington Diocese, Joliet was still his diocese of incardination, which is the legal attachment of a cleric to a specific diocese. That meant Howlin was subject to Imesch's authority and discipline.

Efforts to reach Howlin and Joliet Diocese officials were unsuccessful.

Other diocese actions

In addition to Howlin, the three others suspended from their ministries this month because of sexual abuse claims are:

The Rev. Gary Berthiaume, who was suspended by the Cleveland Diocese on April 8. Berthiaume served prison time in 1978 for molesting a 12-year-old altar boy while serving in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Imesch allowed Berthiaume to serve as chaplain at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

The Rev. Phillip Dedera, who served at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Romeoville, and was chaplain at Edward Hospital and St. Patrick Nursing Home in Naperville. Imesch removed Dedera on Friday because of a credible allegation of abuse that occurred in the mid-1970s, the diocese said. An abuse survivor recently reported the claim. Dedera also served at St. Walter in Roselle and St. Patrick in Momence. Efforts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Brother Robert Murphy, who was director of university ministry at Lewis University in Romeoville and a board member at Joliet Catholic Academy. Murphy was suspended April 5 by his religious order, the Carmelites, after he admitted receiving treatment for inappropriate behavior with minors in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ted Slowik can be reached at (815) 729-6053 or via e-mail at


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