In Sex Abuse Settlement, Joliet Diocese to Release Data on 15 Priests Considered Sex Offenders

By Clifford Ward
Chicago Tribune
March 13, 2013,0,6514568.story

[with video]

A settlement reached between the Joliet Diocese and a man who accused one of its priests of molesting him as a boy will result in the release of personnel files and documents related to 15 priests considered sex offenders.

In announcing the settlement Tuesday, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said the diocese would comply with a Will County judge's ruling that lifts a protective order of specific files and documents of the "priest-offenders."

Attorneys for plaintiff David Rudofski said there are 7,000 pages of internal diocesan documents dating back decades that detailed abuse allegedly committed by priests. The settlement allows the documents to be released voluntarily by the plaintiff. Three pages were released Tuesday.

Rudofski filed suit in 2007 alleging he was abused as an 8-year-old by the Rev. James Burnett while making his first confession in the early 1980s at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena, according to Rudofski's attorney, Terry Johnson.

Conlon said that as part of the settlement, he acknowledged that the allegations directed against Burnett by Rudofski and two other alleged victims were considered substantiated by the diocese.

Burnett was removed from ministry in 2006, according to the diocese. He has denied the allegations, Johnson said. Burnett also served as rector of the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet and at churches in Bensenville and Naperville.

The settlement also included a cash payment to Rudofski, the diocese said. The amount was not disclosed.

Burnett was one of nine new names formally added Tuesday to a diocese list of priests who had a credible allegation of sex abuse made against them. That list, which is on the diocese website, now includes 34 priests, some ordained in the 1930s.

Of those, 14 are dead, and those still alive have been removed from ministry, diocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said.

Johnson said more documents will be made public in the coming days after the names of alleged victims are redacted.

"If it wasn't there in black and white, you'd think it was fiction," Johnson said.

Rudofski, his attorney said, refused to settle the suit unless he was allowed to make the documents public, said Johnson and Pat Bradley, another attorney who worked on the case.

The first documents released Tuesday were reports written in 1967 to the bishop's office by the Rev. Roger Kaffer, who was then head of the St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Lockport. In the reports, Kaffer describes his interviews of four seminarians who said they had been abused by a priest assigned there.

Kaffer, who later became an auxiliary bishop, wrote that he confronted the priest and Kaffer told the priest that he had made the bishop aware of the allegations.

Attorneys for Rudofski said the priest, the Rev. James Frederick, remained active in ministry for many years. Frederick, who is on the diocese list of priests with a credible allegation made against them, died in 1988.

In his statement, Conlon said the history of child abuse in the church has unfolded over a long period.

"No human action, really, can fix the past," Conlon said. "My focus is on the future, trying to do everything in my power to assure that the children of this diocese are safe."


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