Not Considered Sex Abuse, Says Joliet Bishop

WBBM [Chicago IL]
February 3, 2006

JOLIET, Ill. (WBBM Newsradio 780) -- Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch says in a newly released deposition that he transferred to another parish a priest who skinny-dipped and played poker in the nude with young boys because the behavior was inappropriate, but the bishop did not consider it to be sexual abuse.

Imesch discussed relocating the former priest from a Lombard parish, where families accused him in 1980 of sexually abusing boys, to a Lockport parish, where he was again accused, in a deposition unsealed Thursday by a DuPage County Judge.

Imesch was deposed Aug. 5 by lawyers for a man who has sued the diocese, alleging the Rev. Edward Stefanich sexually abused him in the 1960s at the same Lombard parish where the other priest was accused in the 1980s. Stefanich pleaded guilty to abusing a 14-year- old girl in 1987.

During the deposition, Imesch said he never considered reporting to police the alleged relationship between Stefanich and the teen because he did not have the evidence to do so, according to the transcript.

"I would not do that. There is no verification. ... And I'm not going to go say, `Hey, police, go check on my priest,"' Imesch said.

The Diocese of Joliet released a written statement Thursday criticizing Judge Stephen Culliton's decision to unseal the 268-page deposition.

"It puts the diocese in an extreme disadvantage because the diocese is unable to put forth any effective response at this time," the statement said. "The diocese believes that lifting the (protective) order also violates the privacy of many other individuals except the alleged victims."

Lawyers for the man suing the diocese, identified only as "John Doe 85," argued for the deposition's release to help determine whether the diocese let abusive priests remain in ministry.

In the deposition, Imesch repeatedly says he did not report to authorities allegations of abuse, including those about Stefanich's relationship, because he had questions about the credibility of the claims.

"Could I have done something more? Probably," Imesch said in the deposition. "We did what we thought was right at the time. And I'll live with that."

Also Thursday, two former Will County men filed lawsuits alleging Imesch failed to monitor another priest the men accuse of abusing them at parishes in Elmhurst and Bolingbrook between 1979 and 1981.

Those lawsuits claim Imesch and other Diocese of Joliet leaders didn't limit the priest's access to children or take other action.


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