Judge Rules Complaint of Priest Abuse Is Too Late

By Hal Dardick
Chicago Tribune [Joliet IL]
November 30, 2006

A Will County judge Wednesday dismissed a child sexual abuse claim against a former priest and the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, saying the clock on the statute of limitations had run out.

But Circuit Judge Gerald Kinney gave attorney Michael Bolos the right to file an amended complaint that might bolster his argument that the statute had not expired.

As part of the case against the former priest, Bolos sought to make public two depositions that former Bishop Joseph Imesch gave in cases filed against two other priests, as was done earlier this year in a DuPage County case. That effort is on hold, Bolos said after Kinney's ruling.

Bolos' client sued the diocese of Joliet earlier this year, alleging Michael Gibbney, once pastor of Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Elmhurst and St. Dominic Church in Bolingbrook, repeatedly molested him in the late 1970s, starting when he was 11 years old.

In 1993, after an "emotional breakdown," the man contacted the diocese, which provided him with "a brief period of counseling," the suit states.

In 2005, he suffered "a series of adverse mental and physical health events and hospitalizations" after learning "sensitive sexual abuse files" related to him were in the hands of criminal law enforcers, the complaint alleged.

So he again contacted the diocese, and Imesch wrote in a letter that the diocese was willing to pay the costs of medical care, attorneys said.

Bolos argued the letter in effect waived the statute of limitations and kept the abuse issue alive, but Jim Byrne, an attorney for the diocese, disagreed.

"An offer to pay some medical expenses has never been construed as a waiver of the statue of limitations," Byrne told Kinney.

After granting Byrne's motion to dismiss the case, Kinney set a status date of Jan. 26 for the new complaint Bolos is expected to file.

Bolos and other attorneys suing the diocese in January won a 2-1 Appellate Court ruling that said the clock on filing abuse cases doesn't start ticking until the victim is both aware he was abused and realized the psychological harm caused by the abuse.

But the 3rd District Appellate Court agreed to rehear the case and, in September, overturned that decision, again 2-1. Under the statute that applied for the plaintiffs in the appellate case, those allegedly harmed must file suit within two years of the injury or within two years of turning 18, the court determined.

The Appellate Court dismissed arguments that those allegedly harmed did not realize until 2002, when they heard of litigation against other priests, that their "emotional and psychological disturbances" were related to being abused as children.



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