Suit against Joliet Priest Sparks Calls

By Gary Wisby
Chicago Sun-Times
January 6, 1993

A civil suit accusing a priest in the Joliet diocese of sexually abusing a young Lockport man for seven years prompted "a ton of calls" from others who complained of similar offenses, the young man's attorney said Tuesday.

The attorney, Keith Aeschliman, said he received the calls from other victims after he filed a civil suit Monday in Will County Circuit Court against the Rev. Lawrence M. Gibbs.

Some of the callers were mothers who said their children showed marked personality changes after contact with the priest, Aeschliman said. He said two of the children committed suicide.

Gibbs, 48, is accused of sexually abusing Joseph Dittrich, 22, as many as 50 times beginning when Dittrich was 11. The suit says the abuse occurred while Gibbs was associate pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Lockport and continued while Dittrich was attending St. Vincent De Paul boarding school in Lemont, preparing to enter a seminary.

Among the charges is that Gibbs provided alcohol to Dittrich, who now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five nights a week, his attorney said. The priest showed the boy pornographic magazines and videos during overnight visits to Gibbs' cottage at Wonder Lake in McHenry County, according to the suit.

The suit names Bishop Joseph Imesch of the Joliet diocese, charging that after Gibbs was accused of similar offenses at Christ the King Catholic Church in Lombard, the diocese hastily transferred Gibbs to St. Joseph's, "where he was placed in charge of the altar boys' training program."


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