Priest Faces Suspension
Formerly of Joliet: Rev. Anthony J. Ross, Now in California, Accused of Sex Abuse
By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
April 18, 2002
JOLIET — A priest who served at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in the 1970s is facing suspension today by the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., for allegedly sexually abusing a 15-year-old Joliet boy in 1981.
The Rev. Anthony J. Ross is director of detention ministry and has worked in AIDS Ministry Outreach in California, but has had no parish assignments during the past decade, the diocese said in a statement.
"We have had no previous knowledge of the emerging allegations, and are unaware of any current complaints regarding Father Ross' conduct in this diocese," said Dan Galvin, an attorney for the diocese.
Also Wednesday, the three bishops of the Joliet Diocese issued a statement apologizing for angry remarks that Ross' brother, the Rev. Richard Ross, pastor of St. Bernard Church in Joliet, made to The Herald News this week in response to an inquiry about the abuse claim.
Anthony Ross is the fifth religious figure associated with the Joliet Diocese to face discipline since April 5 because of past claims of sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, the Diocese of Joliet said Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh placed Ross on administrative leave in response to a new report of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred in 1983.
The Santa Rosa Diocese said that contrary to the Joliet Diocese's statement, Ross is still an active priest.
"He's on a restricted ministry. His status has not changed at this point in time," said Deirdre Frontczak, communications director for the Santa Rosa Diocese. The diocese's sensitive issues committee meets today and could decide to place Ross on administrative leave, she said.
A 36-year-old Joliet-area man says Anthony Ross molested him twice in 1981 — not 1983. The molestations allegedly happened in a residence at St. Peter Church in Itasca and at a cabin in Lake Geneva, Wis. The man contacted The Herald News and shared handwritten letters that he claims Ross wrote from California in 1983.
The Joliet Diocese sent Ross to California in January 1983 to undergo therapy for sexual misconduct, documents show. However, the Joliet boy's claim was not reported to the diocese until February 1983, when the boy's parents discovered letters that Ross sent the youth while undergoing counseling for sexual misconduct.
In one letter, dated Jan. 16, 1983, the author wrote: "Get somebody to take some pictures of you clothed and unclothed (so to say) so I can see how you're doing and I won't forget what you look like. Take care and say hello to your family and the kids I know for me. Love, Fr. Ross."
In 1992, the Joliet-area man attended a conference sponsored by The Link-Up, a Chicago-based organization that was one of the first groups devoted to survivors of clergy abuse. On Jan. 14, 1993, the young man met with Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Joliet Diocese, and was angered by Imesch's "forgive and forget" attitude.
"(Imesch) assured me that Father Ross would no longer be a priest," the man said. "I was insistent about that point."
In his statement Sunday to the Joliet's Diocese's estimated 620,000 Catholics, Imesch encourages people who suffered abuse years ago to approach the diocese for counseling. But attorneys and survivors' groups say that's the wrong thing to do, since it starts the clock ticking on the statute of limitations. Even if the abuse occurred years ago, a victim can report the crime to local law enforcement the moment he discovers it caused him harm.
"The counseling is their way of ensuring that never again can you come forward. That's their way of sealing these (court) files," said Joliet attorney Keith Aeschliman.
Sister Judith Davies, chancellor, said Wednesday that the diocese would respond to details of the allegation and the diocese's response to abuse claims later in the week.
The man's parents today are still angered by what they consider Imesch's arrogance and insensitivity toward survivors of abuse. His mother said she met many years ago with Imesch, who reportedly told her he was appalled at her inability to forgive Ross.
"I said I was appalled at your inability to face the fact that our young boys are being raped," the mother said.
Imesch has declined requests for an in-person interview with The Herald News, but Davies said on Wednesday that she would relay the newspaper's most recent request.
The man's father said he's tired of the Catholic Church's ineffective response to the issue of sexual abuse.
"They're focusing on the good priests ... instead of saying, 'Let's clean the ***-damn closet and get these clowns out of here,'" the father said.
Ted Slowik can be reached at (815) 729-6053 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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