Elmhurst Priest Accused in Scandal Is Reinstated

By Rhonda Sciarra
Chicago Daily Herald
June 9, 2002

Many parishioners at an Elmhurst church are delighting today in the return of their pastor, who was removed a month ago because of a sexual misconduct allegation from more than 30 years ago.

The Rev. John F. Barrett was reinstated at Mary Queen of Heaven Church after a review committee found the allegations unsubstantiated, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet announced Saturday.

"Words cannot express our joy," said John Maloney, one of two deacons at Mary Queen of Heaven. "We expected he would come back to us."

The diocese placed Barrett, 69, on administrative leave at the beginning of May as a review committee began to reinvestigate an allegation that Barrett molested a minor while he served at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Clarendon Hills.

Barrett said Mass Saturday for the first time since being placed on leave. He was welcomed with two standing ovations during Mass by the 300 people attending, Maloney said.

Today he will celebrate a 10:30 a.m. Mass and then talk to the public at a noon news conference, said his attorney, Aldo Botti.

Barrett was overwhelmed Saturday when he learned he could return to his duties, Botti said.

"He was just cheerful," Botti said. "There were tears in his eyes, and he was so choked up."

Barrett has vehemently spoken out against the accusation and maintained his innocence publicly. He is one of six priests in the Joliet Diocese to be placed on leave in the last month because of sexual abuse allegations.

"There are a lot of good priests who are facing accusations, and this priest stood up and fought," Botti said. "He stood up and said, 'I'm not going to take it.' "

After finding no evidence to support the allegation in last month's reinvestigation, the committee recommended to Bishop Joseph L. Imesch that Barrett be allowed to return.

"While this experience has been extremely painful for Father Barrett and his parishioners, the independent review committee felt it had to seek further closure of this previously unresolved matter in order to remain consistent with our ongoing commitment to address the tragedy of sexual misconduct with minors," Imesch said.

The committee interviewed several people who worked at the church and school at the time of the alleged abuse, Imesch said.

The allegation was considered unresolved by the committee when it was reported and investigated in the early 1990s. No other allegations were ever made against Barrett.

Barrett has spent more than 43 years as a Catholic priest. He began his career at St. Peter and Paul Church in Naperville in 1959. Before serving at Mary Queen of Heaven, Barrett spent 12 years at St. Alexander's Church in Villa Park.

In a letter to the parish, Imesch wrote of the dignity that Barrett has shown throughout the ordeal.

"He firmly professed his innocence without attacking his accuser or speaking ill of the diocese," Imesch wrote. "He is a true Christian and an outstanding priest."

Parishioners are just excited to have their pastor home, Maloney said.

"Very few of these types of stories have a happy ending," Maloney said. "This story has a happy ending, a very happy ending."


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