Services Continue in Backdrop of Priest Scandal
Alleged Sex Abuse Removes Holy Ghost Priest

By Chelsea Irving
February 5, 2006

(CBS) SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. Services continued as normal Sunday morning at a south suburban church, but without its priest, CBS 2's Chelsea Irving reports.

That has left some parishioners with mixed feelings.

"Very good priest," said parishioner Leo Olesky. "Now whether the allegations are true or not, I don't know."

Father Joseph Bennett, pastor at Holy Ghost Catholic Church, 700 E. 170th St., in South Holland, is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl in the late 1960s.

Bennett was put on administrative leave because of the accusations. That abuse was believed to have happened at St. John De LaSalle Church at 102nd Street and King Drive in Chicago.

Allegations against Bennett first surfaced two years ago, but it wasn't until this past week that he was suspended from active ministry.

Most parishioners learned about the allegations Saturday when a letter from the Archdiocese of Chicago was read during 5 p.m. mass.

The Archdiocese has asked its staff to review any current cases of sexual misconduct allegations in light of recent sex abuse scandals.

The Chicago Archdiocese has been under fire since Jan. 21, when Father Daniel McCormack, 37, was charged with sexual abuse for allegedly fondling two boys. He was charged Wednesday with sexually abusing a third boy and was released Thursday on $300,000 bond. McCormack was removed from his ministry at St. Agatha's Church on the West Side. His attorney has insisted he is innocent.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the allegations against Bennett are another example of failure by the archdiocese to move fast enough to stop abusive priests.

"This is a pattern," said SNAP member Ken Kaczmarz. "It's not an isolated case. The cardinal and his staff do not take these allegations seriously. They put all sorts of bureaucracy and paperwork in front of victims when they come forward."

The archdiocese said its track record speaks for itself.

"When the allegations surfaced two years ago, we contacted authorities immediately," said Archdiocese of Chicago spokesman Jim Dwyer. "The case occurred more than 35 years ago, and it's impossible to check the allegation's truthfulness overnight."


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