South Holland Priest Accused Of Abuse
Chicago Archdiocese Plans to Reveal the Name of the Accused Priest at Sunday Mass

By Andrew Harmon
The Times
February 2, 2006

The Archdiocese of Chicago on Wednesday announced that it has removed another priest from the ministry pending an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct that took place over 35 years ago.

Church officials said they would reveal the priest's identity Sunday to those churches where the priest served as pastor.

But attorney Jeff Anderson said he represents two women who claim the Rev. Joseph Bennett, who has been at Holy Ghost Church in South Holland, abused them more than 35 years ago. As of Wednesday, a lawsuit had not been filed by those women.

According to a list of Bennett's assignments as a priest, Bennett was ordained as a priest in 1966 and has served at Holy Ghost Church since 1998.

Neither Bennett or church officials could be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Two allegations surfaced against the priest in the past two years, according to NBC5. In a telephone interview with one of the two women with sexual abuse allegations against Bennett, she said she was at St. John De LaSalle Church more than 30 years ago when the priest abused her after CCD classes.

Cardinal Francis George spoke to parishioners St. Agatha Church in Chicago this past weekend about a different priest who is charged with molesting two boys.

The Rev. Daniel McCormack was charged Jan. 21 with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he repeatedly molested two boys between 2001 and 2005. Currently out on bond, McCormack is due to appear in Cook County Criminal Court for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 10.

McCormack is accused of fondling two underage boys while serving as a priest at St. Agatha's Church in Chicago. A third victim has come forward, although a spokesman for the Cook County State's Attorney's office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The boys who charge they were molested by Rev. Daniel McCormack are not seeking money damages from the Archdiocese. A lawsuit filed earlier this week by an 11-year-old parishioner at St. Agatha's Church, seeks only a list of priests suspected of abusing a child since 1952.

But Anderson, the St. Paul, Minn., attorney who filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court, said it was entirely possible he would file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the boy against McCormack and the church.

"When I feel it will be in the best interest of this child, then I will take it from there," Anderson said.

He added such a lawsuit would most likely be an individual action, not a class-action complaint like the Cook County filing.

Anderson filed the suit on behalf of the boy, his mother, and a 35-year-old man who claims he was abused by a Chicago priest three decades ago. Currently, Anderson said he has similar suits pending in 15 states.

"The most important thing right now is a full disclosure and the development of candor so that children are protected," Anderson said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Currently, the archdiocese provides written information on priests, dead or alive, upon request. Anderson calls this system "flawed."

"The church knows of many more (suspected) priests that they have refused to disclose. It's clear and obvious and conspicuous that there are many more offenders that are not known to the public," Anderson said.

Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said that it would be inappropriate to list or name any priest who has not been involved in civil or criminal litigation.

"It might be a popular thing to do, but there is something called fairness and justice," Dwyer said. "Nobody is trying to make excuses for wrongdoing, but there are times when we have not been able to provide information because we lack reasonable evidence."


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