Joliet Diocese Sued
Men claim Imesch knew of sex abuse when he transferred Gibbney

Daily Southtown [Tinley Park IL]
February 3, 2006

[Survivor's name redacted on 9/7/07 at his request.]

Special to the Daily Southtown

Two more men filed lawsuits against the Joliet Diocese on Thursday, claiming Bishop Joseph Imesch and other diocese officials are responsible for alleged sexual abuse by former priest Michael Gibbney.

[Redacted], 38, and David Mortell, 37, accuse Gibbney of molesting them beginning when they were 11 and 13 years old in 1979 and 1981, respectively. The lawsuits claim that Imesch was aware of Gibbney's inappropriate conduct with boys at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Elmhurst when the bishop moved him to St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Bolingbrook.

Imesch was aware of accusations that "Father Gibbney sexually molested several boys. His response was to move Gibbney to another parish rather than limit his access to children," said Joliet attorney Mike Bolos, who represents both men. "Rather than protect these children, they played a shell game that protected their priests."

[Redacted] went public with his accusation in June and detailed his experiences on a Web site. He asked the diocese to pay for his more than $200,000 in counseling and medical bills but said Thursday those negotiations proved fruitless.

"They merely refused to compensate," [Redacted] said. "I would be surprised if they made any motion to compensate any victim."

[Redacted] seeks at least $5 million from the diocese in his lawsuit; Mortell seeks in excess of $1 million.

[Redacted]'s lawsuit summarizes the experiences he wrote about on his Web site, including how Gibbney exploited the boy's interest in photography to get him alone in a darkroom the priest had set up at St. Francis of Assisi. The priest developed the boy's trust and later plied him with alcohol, took him on out-of-state trips in a motor home, showed him pornography and molested him, the suit states.

Mortell claims that in 1981 Gibbney took him and another boy to the College of DuPage to play racquetball, and they spent an inordinate amount of time together in the showers afterward. Gibbney then took the boys back to St. Francis of Assisi for pizza and suggested that they spend the night in his motor home, according to the lawsuit. It says that after giving the boys alcohol, the priest suggested giving them nude massages to soothe their sore muscles and molested Mortell.

Mortell's mother was working at Mary Queen of Heaven in Elmhurst in 2002 when the parish received a letter from Imesch about James Fonck's lawsuit against Gibbney and the diocese. She questioned her son about Gibbney, causing Mortell to discover the psychological harm caused by the abuse years earlier, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuits say that in 2004, Imesch acknowledged that the diocese had received 113 complaints of sexual misconduct with minors involving 27 different priests during the previous 54 years.


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