History of Abuse Allegations

By Tony Graf and Ted Slowik
The Herald News [Joliet IL]
May 17, 2006

1978: The Rev. Gary Berthiaume, who served with Imesch at Our Lady of Sorrows in Michigan, is convicted and sent to prison for sexually abusing a boy. Later, Berthiaume transfers to Cleveland where he faces more abuse allegations, then is accepted by Imesch into the Joliet Diocese in 1987 and placed in ministry as a hospital chaplain.

1980: Parishioners from Lombard write to Imesch, urging him to remove then-priest Lawrence Gibbs because of the priest's conduct with young boys. Imesch writes back, saying police found no evidence of wrongdoing. Imesch transfers Gibbs to several other parishes before pulling him from ministry after a lawsuit is filed in 1993.

1983: A mother confronts Imesch with love letters that the Rev. A.J. Ross sent to her son. Imesch sends Ross to California for counseling, then places him at three more parishes over the next decade. In 1993, the son confronts Imesch, who sends Ross to California to serve as a prison chaplain.

In the wake of publicity in 2002, Ross is removed and apologizes for molesting the boy.

1983: Then-priest John Slown is convicted of molesting a DuPage County boy and removed from ministry.

1984: Hinsdale police investigate reports that the Rev. Fred Lenczycki molested boys, but drop the case when families refuse to cooperate. Imesch later sends Lenczycki for counseling, then places him at a parish in California, then as a hospital chaplain in St. Louis. Imesch and Lenczycki are sued in 1997, yet the priest remains a chaplain until 2002 when DuPage County authorities indict him for sexual abuse. Lenczycki is convicted in 2004, and the Illinois attorney general petitions to have him detained indefinitely as a sexually violent predator when due to be paroled in 2006.

1984: The Rev. Leonardo Mateo returns to the Philippines amid accusations that he sexually abused boys at an Elmhurst parish.

1985: The Rev. Salvator Formusa retires, 21 years before the diocese acknowledges he is the subject of a credible abuse allegation.

1987: Then-priest Ed Stefanich is arrested by Woodridge police and later convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. More than a year earlier, the girl's mother went to Imesch with her concerns. She finally told a deacon, who immediately called police.

1990: Then-priest Henry Slade is convicted of sexually abusing boys in DuPage County.

1992: The diocese forms a review board to address sex-abuse claims. Then-priest Myles White is convicted of abusing a Kankakee boy, and the evidence includes a videotape of the abuse. Gibbs and then-priest Michael Gibbney are removed amid allegations.

1993: The Rev. Lawrence Mullins, a high-ranking cleric serving as master of ceremonies at the Cathedral of St. Raymond and Joliet Fire Department chaplain, is removed from ministry due to sex-abuse allegations, though he remains a priest.

2002: Six priests are removed from ministries by Imesch after allegations of past sexual abuse with minors were deemed credible: the Revs. Philip Dedera, Lowell Fischer, J. Anthony Meis, Donald O'Connor, Donald Pock and Edward Poff. The Rev. Carroll Howlin is placed on administrative leave. His case is pending.

2003: Church officials announced that the diocese's review board had determined that abuse allegations about the Rev. Arno Dennerlein were credible, and that Imesch would continue to keep the priest on temporary administrative leave. Dennerlein had been suspended as pastor of a Lombard parish in February after two Joliet brothers told Joliet police that Dennerlein engaged in inappropriate conduct with them during the 1970s. Dennerlein has denied wrongdoing, and his status is listed as being on "administrative leave, case pending."

2003: The Rev. John Furdek was convicted of attempted sexual assault of a child after he used the Internet to arrange a rendezvous in Wisconsin with a police investigator who posed as a 14-year-old boy. Furdek was sentenced to three years in prison and 12 years probation. Furdek was pastor of St. Alexander Church in Villa Park when he was arrested in February 2000. Furdek remains a priest, though he is on administrative leave.

2006: More allegations arise concerning the late Rev. Richard Ruffalo. Tim Placher, a music teacher, newspaper columnist and lifelong Joliet resident, details abuse allegations in a Daily Southtown story. Ruffalo died in 1997.

April 2006: Allegations are announced regarding the Rev. James Frederick, who died in 1988 at age 54. An obituary said he had served in Steger, Clarendon Hills, Wilton Center, Frankfort and Manhattan.

- —Compiled by Tony Graf and Ted Slowik


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