Lawsuit Seems Release of Priests' Names Suspected of Abuse

By Tara Burghart
The Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat
February 28, 2006

CHICAGO - A class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Diocese of Joliet seeks to force Roman Catholic officials there to release the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing children.

The lead plaintiff is a man who says his family's priest at Divine Savior Church in Downer's Grove abused him in 1970. George Knotek said he was 16 when he approached the priest for advice on entering the seminary, but instead the Rev. Donald Pock gave him alcohol to drink and sexually abused him, creating "a nightmare that has lasted for years."

Pock died in 2004. Knotek said the response of church officials to his complaints - which started in the early 1970s - has been hurtful and insufficient, even though a brother who is a priest has tried to help him.

Knotek is not seeking monetary damages. Instead, the lawsuit - filed in DuPage County Circuit Court - seeks the diocese's release to the public and law enforcement of the names of all priests and other employees accused of molesting children since 1950.

It also wants the court to order the diocese not to destroy any documents regarding suspected sexual abuse and to turn over the documents to the court for safekeeping.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the Diocese of Joliet said in 2002, it gave to the state's attorneys of Will and DuPage counties the files of priests accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

"When an investigation deems an allegation against a priest to be credible, the name of that priest is disclosed to the parish and other places where he has served," according to the statement.

The diocese also said it never has destroyed or hidden documents related to sexual abuse.

Knotek, 52, who works for a nonprofit group in Minneapolis, appeared at a news conference organized by his attorney and the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"It's bad enough that this culture of abuse has been allowed to continue. But the fact that the church still to this day doesn't come forward with the truth, doesn't look out for the victims. Shame on you. Shame on you. It's a shame," said Knotek, breaking down in tears.

The diocese is based in Joliet, about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, but it serves Roman Catholics in seven counties.

The diocese's longtime bishop, Joseph Imesch, has been under fire recently, stemming from a 2005 deposition unsealed in early February.

In that deposition, Imesch said 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.

The deposition was related to a lawsuit filed against the diocese by a man who alleges a priest abused him in the 1960s.

Imesch wrote a letter read in parishes last month saying that he cares about the safety of children despite questions about how he has handled reports of alleged sexual misconduct.

Knotek's lawsuit - citing media reports and previous litigation - lists the names of 28 priests it says have been accused of sexual misconduct in the Joliet Diocese.

In its statement, the diocese said there are no priests currently in ministry in the diocese with "credible allegations" against them.

Of the 28 names, all but two are either out of the ministry or deceased. One who was accused was exonerated and returned to ministry, according to the diocese, and another never was accused of sexual abuse.

"The diocese extends its prayers to the survivors of these sinful and criminal acts," the statement said.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in Chicago in late January asking the country's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese to reveal the names of all its priests suspected of abuse over the past 54 years. It was filed after a priest from a Chicago church was charged with molesting boys.


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