Past Won't Be Repeated, Bishop Vows
Imesch Says He Relied on Therapists' Advice in Sex Abuse Cases
By Crystal Yednak
February 5, 2006
Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch said he relied heavily on the advice of professional therapists when deciding to return priests involved in sexual abuse cases to the ministry.
"The actions of those priests happened before psychologists recognized that behavior of that kind was indicative of a severe problem that could not be adequately treated," Imesch wrote in a letter that was read at weekend masses.
In a 2005 deposition unsealed in court last week, Imesch was questioned about his handling of cases over the last 30 years in which he did not report information about sex abuse cases to police and he allowed the priests to remain working after learning of the abuse accusations.
Though some of the alleged abuse happened in the late 1970s and 1980s, Imesch has drawn fire for decisions he made more recently to allow some priests who allegedly sexually abused children to continue in the ministry. After Imesch faced increasing criticism for those decisions, those priests were removed in 2002 from public ministry.
A diocese spokesman said Saturday night that officials had no further comment on the bishop's letter. Imesch, 74, has asked the Vatican to look for a replacement based on his anticipated retirement at age 75, the spokesman said.
In the letter, Imesch said he realized the behavior of the priests was inappropriate when it was reported to him. After the priests were referred for professional treatment, Imesch said he relied on therapists' advice when deciding if a priest was fit to return to public ministry. Some priests were recommended for restricted ministry, he said.
"Some of these carried out their responsibilities well and did so with the commendation of their supervisors," he wrote.
But others repeated the inappropriate behavior and were removed, according to the letter.
The diocese now notifies the state's attorney's office of any allegations of abuse and the matter is referred to the Diocesan Review Committee, Imesch said.
Imesch told parishioners that he regretted the pain and embarrassment that they may have experienced.
"The media reports tend to portray me as someone who doesn't care about the safety of children. Nothing could be further from the truth," he wrote. "All of us can look back on our lives and find things we should have done differently."
He said that it is clear other decisions should have been made. "I promise to do whatever I can to see that the past is not repeated," he wrote.
Imesch gave his deposition in 2005 as part of a lawsuit filed by a man who alleges Rev. Edward Stefanich sexually abused him in the 1960s.
In the deposition, Imesch was questioned about not contacting authorities after priests admitted to him that they had sexually abused children.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.