Chicago-area Diocese to Pay $1.4m to 3 Men in Priest Sex Abuse Lawsuit
By Doug Stanglin
August 31, 2018
|A protester holds up a sign in reference to the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church when Pope Francis travels through the city in the Popemobile on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.|
A Chicago-area Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed by three men who alleged they were sexually molested by their priest when they were boys.
The three unidentified men alleged they were repeatedly harmed by Father Leonard Mateo of the Joliet Diocese between 1980 and 1982, before age 11.
After initial complaints were raised by parents, Mateo suddenly was transferred to a parish in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, eventually landing in the Philippines where, the lawsuit says, church records show he died in 2004.
The three first raised their allegations against the priest in 2014.
“This is a priest who was continuously moved from one parish to the next upon allegations of sexual misconduct, normalizing his sexual abuse of children and dispelling any notion it was wrong,” plaintiff’s attorney Antonio M. Romanucci said.
Attorneys for the three men say Bishop Joseph Imesch, who died in 2015, reported in a deposition that priests with credible sexual abuse allegations had been allowed to continue ministry within the Diocese of Joliet without any warning to parishioners.
As part of the settlement, the diocese is not required to admit wrongdoing in the case.
In a conference call with his attorney, Martin Gould, and a Chicago Tribune reporter, one of the victims identified only as John Doe C, said the abuse shattered his trust in priests and led to a lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol, the newspaper reported Friday.
”People need to come forward, because that’s what’s going to stop (the abuse) or curb it,” John Doe C told the newspaper. “The only way the church is going to do anything is if more of these people come forward and then maybe they’ll start enforcing their zero-tolerance policy like they should.”
According to a lawsuit, Mateo joined the parish in 1977 and later befriended an 8-year-old boy and his 6-year-old brother, who later introduced him to to the third victim, a 10-year-old boy.
Mateo would treat them to ice cream or take them swimming at the local YMCA. He eventually lured them to his bedroom in the rectory, according to the lawsuit.
The sexual assaults continued for two years, according to the lawsuit, until the mother of the two brothers overheard them talking about the incidents and called police.
The diocese, according to the lawsuit, convinced the parents not to press charges, saying Mateo was suicidal and that the diocese would seek treatment for him.
According to the Joliet Diocese, 35 diocesan priests have had substantiated or credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them since 1986. Most have been removed from ministry and others have died.
The lawsuit is only the latest in a series of recent cases involving clergy sexual abuse.
A grand jury report released in Pennsylvania in August said 300 "predator priests" had abused more than 1,000 children in the state over the past seven decades.
In Indiana this week, the Diocese of Gary published on its website a list of 10 priests who had served in the diocese and had "been found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors." The list included their names, the number of allegations against them and the actions taken by the diocese.
"Those who have committed crimes of abuse and those who have facilitated such crimes must be held accountable," Bishop Donald Hying said in a statement. "This is an absolute necessity if we are to regain trust and move forward."
None appear to have ever been criminally charged.