More Documents Released Detailing Sex Abuse Allegations in Joliet Diocese

By Shannon Antinori
April 30, 2014

Five new lawsuits filed in Will County this week; diocese responds, says dealing with 'tragic history of child abuse' is now part of Church's ministry.

A year after the Diocese of Joliet released a list of priests who were credibly accused of sexually abusing children, more documents detailing abuse allegations are coming to light.

On Wednesday,  Chicago-based attorney Jeff Anderson also announced that five new lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Joliet.

The new information sheds more light on 16 of the 34 priests included on the diocese's list of credibly accused clergy. Click here to view the list of credibly accused priests.

As part of a legal settlement, the Catholic Diocese of Joliet last year began releasing internal documents related to the accused priest — including files that show that for decades, bishops had been aware of the sexual abuse accusations. More than 7,000 documents were to be released.

Attorney Mark McKenna, whose firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz represents 15 alleged victims who have cases pending against the diocese, said a list created by the diocese's review board shows that the diocese has been keeping track of allegations against priests at least since the 1960s.

This week, more documents were made public after being released by plaintiff David Rudofsky through Anderson as part of his settlement with the diocese.

Rudofsky was 8 years old and making his first confession at St. Mary's Church in Mokena when he was sexually molested by the Rev. James Burnett in the 1980s. He filed a personal injury suit against the diocese in 2007.

"This is a new set of documents with the names of the victims redacted," McKenna said, explaining that it took some time for references of victims to be removed so that the documents could be released.

Some of the files are hundreds of pages long, including the 438-page file on Burnett.

On Wednesdsay, files were made available priests, including:

  • Fr. James Burnett, who served at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena, as well as serving as rector at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet. Removed from ministry in 2006.
  • Fr. Phillip Dedera, formerly of St. Andrew in Romeoville and St. Pius X Church in Lombard; removed from ministry in 2002.
  • Fr. Michael Gibbney, formerly of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church Bolingbrook; removed from ministry in 1992.
  • Fr. Lawrence Gibbs, formerly of Christ the King Church in Lombard; removed from ministry in 1992.
  • Fr. Carroll Howlin, formerly of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Romeoville; removed from ministry in 2002.
  • Fr. Fred Lenczynski, convicted of sexually abusing boys at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Hinsdale; removed from ministry in 2002.
  • Fr. Lawrence Mullins, formerly of the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet; removed from ministry in 1993.
  • Fr. Anthony Ross, formerly of St. John the Baptist in Winfield and the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet; removed from ministry in 2002.
  • Fr. William Virtue, formerly of  St. Mary in Mokena; removed from ministry in 2006 in the Diocese of Peoria.

View the complete files here.

Diocese responds to new suits

Also on Wednesday, the Diocese of Joliet issued a response to the new suits through spokesman Edward Flavin.

"The Diocese of Joliet has not yet been served with the five lawsuits filed in Will County Court today," the statement said. "After receiving copies of the suits and reviewing the specifics of the pleadings, diocesan officials will respond in the appropriate forum.

"Anyone who may have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the diocese is urged to report the abuse to civil authorities and to the diocese. Reports may be made to any pastor or by contacting the diocese’s Director for the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (815) 221-6116."

The statement continued, "Dealing with the tragic history of child abuse is part of the Church’s ministry today. The people of the Diocese of Joliet pray every day for those who have been abused and for those responsible for it.  They ask the Lord for healing for all His people who suffer for what has happened in their midst. With God’s help, the diocese will continue to do its best to assure the safety of its children."


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