Itasca Priest Now on Leave Denounced Abuse

By Justin Kmitch
Chicago Daily Herald
May 7, 2002

Less than three weeks ago, the Rev. Donald Pock called child abuse a terrible, terrible thing and an intolerable act.

Sunday Pock, the pastor at Itasca's St. Peter's Catholic Church for 15 years, was placed on administrative leave; the Diocese of Joliet said allegations were substantiated of sexual misconduct more than 25 years ago. The diocese has not said where Pock was serving at the time or the age of the victim.

"It's a terrible, terrible situation and a despicable act that the Catholic Church is dealing with," Pock said April 18. "But the church will sort the facts, regroup and eventually come back stronger than ever; then the media will have to find someone else to pick on."

Pock, 69, was commenting after the Joliet Diocese placed another former Itasca pastor, Anthony Ross, on administrative leave following accusations of sexual misconduct with a teen in 1983 at another parish.

"That sort of situation would never happen here, because I wouldn't stand for it and neither would anyone else around here," Pock said last month.

Pock was unavailable for comment Monday.

Memos signed by Bishop Joseph Imesch hung on locked doors inside Itasca's St. Peter's Catholic Church Monday morning. They noted that Pock had been placed on administrative leave and asked for prayers and forgiveness for the priest. Normally such memos update parishioners on bake sales and other church events.

New parishioner Jamie Naines was walking her dog near the church Monday when she stopped to read one of the notes.

"It's really sad that we're hearing about two priests in about a month at our church doing bad things," she said. "I'm really new to the area, but this is more than a little unsettling."

Longtime parishioners said they share in the sadness and confusion because, they said, Pock sincerely cared for the church in his time there. Some said he was more reserved than they would have liked for a priest. Others said they disagreed with some of his messages related to his strict interpretation of the Bible.

Others said they appreciated his honesty in 1987 when he joined St. Peter's and almost immediately told the parish he was a cured alcoholic. Parish member and village Trustee Ellen Leahy said many members looked up to him for dealing with his problem and overcoming it.

Leahy grew up in the church with her 12 brothers and sisters, and all five of her children are enrolled at St. Peter's school. She said parishioners respected the time and effort Pock put into the church and school.

"Obviously whatever happened with Father Pock, happened before he got to St. Peter's," Leahy said. "He did a good job here, but my only complaint was that he always seemed distant and not always a people person; maybe his reserved nature was his way of making sure nothing happened again."

Leahy said she supports the new hard-line approach taken by the diocese and the immediate removal of all offenders.

Six-year parishioner Carol Gentile said she believes most of the recent allegations, but questions the timing.

"It almost feels like a conspiracy against the Catholic Church because you never hear about other religions suffering from this," Gentile said. "Yet, the allegations are not that hard to believe because priests are human, too, and even they can make these incredible mistakes.

"I'm not dismissing the sick act, but this whole scandal has really taught a lot of people that even the messengers of God are not above tragedy," she said.

GRAPHIC: Rev. Donald Pock

The following are key dates and churches the priest served:

- June 17, 1987: Starts in St. Peter's in Itasca

- June 21, 1977: Starts at St. Joseph in Manteno, Ill.

- April 6, 1976: Starts at St. Patrick in Joliet

- Dec. 1, 1975: Took sick leave

- June 15, 1968: Founding pastor of Divine Savior in Downers Grove

- June 17, 1967: Starts as chaplain at Lewis College in Romeoville

- June 18, 1966: Starts at St. Joseph in Joliet

- Feb. 22, 1961: Starts at Immaculate Conception in Morris

- June 28, 1958: Starts at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Joliet

Source: Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.