Joliet Diocese Hit with Class-Action Suit

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [Illinois]
March 1, 2006

More than 35 years after he says a Roman Catholic priest molested him at a Downers Grove parish, a 52-year-old Minneapolis man has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet, saying its bishops "revictimized him" for decades.

Lawyers for George Knotek filed the class-action lawsuit in DuPage County Court in part to try to force Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Joliet diocese, to disclose the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

The lawsuit, which does not seek monetary damages, also asks that the diocese turn over all documents regarding clergy molestation of children for court supervision so the documents cannot be destroyed, hidden or "misplaced."

In late January, the same attorneys filed a similar class-action lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Knotek, whose brother, Michael, is a Catholic priest and pastor of St. John de la Salle parish in Chicago, says when he was 16 years old the Rev. Donald Pock sexually abused him in the rectory of Divine Savior parish, where his mother was the parish secretary, an emotional Knotek told reporters Tuesday.

Pock died in May 2004.

Meeting was 'classic intimidation'

Knotek lent his name to the lawsuit in an effort to end "the revictimization that occurs when the church time and time again does not stand up and make people whole," he said, choking back tears.

In the mid-1970s, after the bishop in Joliet rebuffed overtures from Knotek and his brother, Michael -- to whom he had revealed the abuse and who at the time was in seminary -- to report the allegations against Pock, the brothers turned to the papal representative in Washington, D.C. A meeting was then brokered with Bishop Joseph Vonesh, an auxiliary bishop in Joliet, and Pock.

"They took us in the room one at a time," Knotek recalled. "They brought me in, sat me down in a chair, with bright lights on me -- it couldn't have been more classic intimidation -- had me go through the explicit details . . . in front of my accuser.

"Father Pock said, 'I'm sorry but I don't remember anything about it. I have a drinking problem. So if it happened, I'm sorry,' " Knotek said.

Pock was removed from the Downers Grove parish, sent for counseling, and then eventually reassigned to another parish in the Joliet diocese, he said.

Wanted 2nd appearance

In 2002, Imesch removed Pock from ministry because of allegations from another man, not Knotek. Since then, Knotek said, he has learned of at least two other men who said they were abused by Pock, including one who is a priest in Minnesota.

But in a May 2003 letter to Knotek, apologizing for the abuse he had suffered at the hands of Pock, Imesch said he felt "quite confident" that no other victims had come forward since Knotek.

"It's not a misunderstanding; it's a lie," said Knotek's attorney Marc Pearlman of Chicago.

In order to investigate his allegations, Imesch told him, Knotek would have to appear before the diocese's review board that vets such allegations. Knotek declined.

"Why should I have to go through that again?" he said.

In a written statement, a spokesman for the Diocese of Joliet assured the public that there are no priests currently in ministry in the Joliet diocese "with credible allegations against them."

"In 2002, the diocese turned over to the state's attorneys of Will and DuPage counties files for all 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. The diocese has never destroyed or hidden any documents relating to sexual abuse by priests," spokesman Thomas Kerber said in the statement.


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