Lawsuit against Priest Dismissed

Associated Press, carried in Daily Southtown
September 26, 2007,092607priestlawsuit.article

A DuPage County judge has dismissed a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Joliet, saying too much time had passed since the alleged abuse occurred nearly 30 years ago at a Mokena parish.

Circuit Judge Stephen Culliton previously had ruled that a 2003 state law that extends the time limit for child sexual abuse lawsuits cannot be applied retroactively to revive old allegations. He officially dismissed the lawsuit Monday.

In the lawsuit, Dan Shanahan accused the Rev. James Burnett of molesting him from 1978 to 1982, when he was from 8 to 12 years old, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena. Shanahan, 36, announced the allegations 19 months ago.

Shanahan's brother Tim also had sued the Joliet Diocese, alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. William Virtue over several years, beginning when Tim Shanahan was 10 and an altar boy. The diocese reached a settlement with him this month, according to diocese spokesman Doug Delaney, who declined to release its terms.

Burnett and Virtue have denied the allegations of abuse. Both priests were placed on administrative leave last year and no longer perform priestly duties, Delaney said. Burnett was removed as pastor of the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, while Virtue was taken out of rural ministries in the Peoria and Rockford dioceses.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented Dan Shanahan, said the Illinois Legislature should change the statute of limitations for cases involving the alleged abuse of children.

"The diocese protected these priests for so long it allowed these guys to get away with it. It's just wrong," Anderson said.

A lawsuit filed by a second accuser with similar allegations against Burnett is pending.


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