Rev. Ross Sorry for Outburst
Joliet Priest: Made Emotional Comment in Defense of Accused Brother

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
April 19, 2002

JOLIET — A Joliet priest issued a public apology Thursday for a statement he made about his brother, who is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old Joliet boy in 1981.

The Rev. Richard Ross, pastor of St. Bernard Church in Joliet, apologized for the angry remark he made in response to an inquiry about allegations concerning his brother, the Rev. Anthony J. Ross.

"My major outburst was totally indefensible," Richard Ross said in the statement.

Richard Ross told The Herald News earlier in the week, "I don't have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn't stop whatever happened. 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."

Since April 5, four priests and a Carmelite brother either working in or affiliated with the Joliet Diocese have faced discipline because of allegations of past sexual abuse.

Ross' remark touched off a firestorm that has intensified media coverage this week about how the Joliet Diocese, headed by Bishop Joseph Imesch, is handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Kentucky preacher

Ross isn't the only priest upset about the media's handling of sexual abuse claims. After the Joliet Diocese announced that the Rev. Carroll Howlin, 67, was being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, Howlin denounced news coverage of the scandal plaguing the Catholic Church.

"They're accusing people of being guilty until proven innocent. They're convicting people without any evidence," Howlin said, as reported by The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday.

Howlin, who ministered in rural Kentucky for the past 25 years, taught at the now-closed St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Lockport. A man recently told the diocese that Howlin abused him between 1974 and 1976 in Illinois and Kentucky.

Victims speak out

Twelve men have contacted The Herald News in the past week to report allegations of past sexual abuse by priests serving in the Joliet Diocese.

None said he intended to report his claims to the diocese or police. Only one said he intended to pursue civil action against the diocese. Most said they were well-adjusted family men and did not see the need to seek counseling. About half declined to give their names, and all asked to not be identified.

"I was just waiting for something to be said. A lot of guys I know suffered severe repercussions later in life (because of abuse). I'm hoping for a big cleansing," one man said Thursday.

In an e-mail, another said boys were defenseless against priests who befriended them or exercised authority over them.

"I feel no need to sue anyone over what was done to me so many years ago, but the truth needs to be told so that our own children and grandchildren don't suffer the same abuse," he wrote.

The first survivor to contact The Herald News shared copies of handwritten letters that he claims Ross sent in 1983 from California, where the priest was undergoing therapy for sexual misconduct. In one letter, the author asks the youth to send pictures of himself "clothed and unclothed."

'Worse than we thought'

Robert McClory is a former priest, correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and faculty member at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He said it's understandable that abuse survivors don't want to approach the diocese at this time.

"The big story here is the loss of confidence in the church by reason of the well-founded stories coming out of Boston and other places. People are screaming out, 'I'm one, too, but I don't know what to do about it,'" McClory said.

"It suggests that the problem is worse than we thought and makes you ask, 'How widespread is it?'" McClory said.

Anthony Ross review

Also Thursday, the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., convened a sensitivity committee to review a claim of sexual abuse that Anthony Ross allegedly committed while serving in the Joliet Diocese in 1981. The committee is not expected to issue its decision about whether to remove Ross from active ministry until the weekend or early next week. Ross is a prison chaplain in California, and the diocese is restricting his access to juveniles pending the outcome of its review.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that from the early 1970s until 1993, when he moved to Santa Rosa, Ross served at six parishes in the Joliet Diocese: St. John the Baptist in Winfield, the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, St. Peter the Apostle in Itasca, Sacred Heart in Lombard, St. Isidore in Bloomingdale and St. Charles Borromeo in Bensenville.

This month, priests Gary Berthiaume and Phillip Dedera were removed as hospital chaplains in Downers Grove and Naperville. Berthiaume had been convicted of molesting a child in Michigan 24 years ago; Dedera is accused of sexually abusing a teen-ager in 1974.

Robert Murphy, who was director of ministry at Lewis University and a board member at Joliet Catholic Academy, was removed from public ministry by the Order of Carmelites after he stepped forward and disclosed he underwent counseling 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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