Letter from Bishop Imesch

By Joseph L. Imesch
Catholic Explorer [Joliet IL]
February 6, 2006

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I deeply regret the pain and embarrassment that you have experienced from the media reports these past days. Those reports concerned a six-hour deposition I gave several months ago about a number of instances of sexual abuse by priests of the Joliet Diocese. Most of what you have read or heard happened more than 20 years ago and had already been reported in the newspapers.

When the actions of these priests were reported to me, I realized that the behavior was inappropriate. Whether or not there were any police investigations, all priests who were accused of inappropriate behavior were immediately interviewed and received professional treatment or left 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. I relied heavily on the judgment of professional therapists when they concluded that a priest was fit for return to ministry. Some priests were recommended for restricted ministry. Some of these carried out their responsibilities well and did so with the commendation of their supervisors.

Despite undergoing treatment and receiving approval for ministry, other priests repeated inappropriate behavior. When this was later learned, they were removed from ministry.

Years ago, I would never have returned a priest into ministry if I had not been assured by professional therapists that he was ready to return. Today, if any priest is accused of inappropriate conduct, the State’s Attorney’s Office is notified and the matter is referred to the diocesan review committee. The priest will be permanently removed from ministry when the allegation is found credible.

I deeply regret the harm that has been caused to victims and the pain and embarrassment that many of you 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. I became a priest because I care. All of us can look back on our lives and find things we should have done differently. At the time our action proceeded from our own best judgment, though in later years it is clear that other decisions should have been made. Any decision I made was according to my best judgment at the time.

I want to express my sincere apology to all who have suffered abuse from priests. I deeply regret any damage that was done to you and want to assist with your recovery. If others have been abused and have not as yet come forward, please contact our victim assistance coordinator, Franciscan Sister Mary Frances Seeley, so that healing can begin.

All of us have learned a difficult and painful lesson from this experience. For my part, I promise to do whatever I can to see that the past is not repeated.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph L. Imesch
Bishop of Joliet


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