Victims Group: Diocese Failed to Pay for Victims' Counseling

By Edith Brady-Lunny
January 6, 2008

PEORIA — The Catholic Diocese of Peoria has failed to keep its commitment to pay for counseling for victims of sexual abuse by clergy, a victims support group said.

In a press conference Monday in front of the new diocese chancery office, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests accused Bishop Daniel Jenky of refusing to pay more than $438,000 in unpaid bills for nine alleged abuse victims.

Peoria SNAP leader Jeff Jones accused the diocese of breaking a commitment Jenky made shortly after he came to the diocese in 2002.

"Beginning as early as 2002, Bishop Jenky has repeatedly promised, in public and in writing, that the diocese would provide therapy for all victims of pedophile and abusive priests in his diocese," said Jones.

A large box of documents carried by Jones included copies of more than $400,000 in bills a central Illinois woman allegedly abused by a priest had paid over the past 12 years. The diocese has paid for counseling for Jones and two other men, but several other alleged victims would like to attend counseling sessions and are afraid that the diocese will not pay for the sessions, he said.

In a written response to the SNAP demand for payments, the chancery office said the diocese and Jenky "remain committed to paying counseling fees for credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor and still pay these fees."

Other fees are not paid, said the diocese, because "upon the unanimous advice of the lay review commission, the Diocese has found that some allegations are utterly unsupported by the facts."

Lawsuits by several of the 17 male and female victims who have come forward remain pending and a separate mediated settlement with some victims required the diocese to pay counseling fees, said Jones.

Meanwhile, an April 3 hearing date has been set to review the status of a pending abuse case against the diocese and former Twin City priest Monsignor Thomas Maloney. The civil lawsuit filed in Peoria Circuit Court by Andrew Ward in June accused the now-retired priest of sexually abusing him at Epiphany Catholic Church between 1995 and 1996. Ward, now 21, was a second-grader at Epiphany Grade School when the alleged abuse occurred, according to the lawsuit.

The Pantagraph does not routinely identify victims of alleged abuse but Ward, who currently lives in Michigan, asked to be publicly named.

The diocese responded in October that personnel decisions regarding priests are exempt from civil court review. The church is not liable for sexual misconduct by priests because the behavior is outside the scope of employment as a matter of law, attorneys for the diocese also argued.

The Ward lawsuit seeks more than $50,000.


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