Man Says He Was Abused, Sues Bishop

By Teresa Mask
Chicago Daily Herald
August 20, 2002

The Joliet Diocese is prepared to pay out thousands of dollars to victims of sex abuse, Bishop Joseph Imesch said in response to the first of several planned lawsuits filed Monday.

He said the victims absolutely deserve financial compensation and counseling if the allegations are proven true.

"If we have to pay for it, we'll have to pay for it," Imesch said. "The diocese is not bankrupt."

Attorney Keith M. Aeschliman named Imesch and the Rev. Carroll Howlin as defendants in the civil lawsuit he filed with the Will County Circuit Court. The suit is seeking compensation "in excess of $15,000."

While Howlin is accused of molesting the now 44-year-old plaintiff, J. Michael Powers, Aeschliman said Imesch played a role in the case by keeping the priest employed in the diocese even after another man made an allegation against Howlin in 1993.

Powers, who now lives in California, alleges Howlin molested him several times over an eight-month period in 1975 when he was 16 and a student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lockport where Howlin was a priest, teacher and counselor. Howlin also supervised recreational outings for students. Powers first made the claim public this year.

Imesch said Howlin, who has worked as a missionary in Kentucky since 1977 but still is affiliated with the Joliet Diocese, has been placed on leave for the past four months. He said Howlin denies molesting Powers. Howlin was accused of abusing another youth, but an independent review board appointed by diocese officials concluded that allegation was false, Imesch said.

Howlin could not be reached for comment Monday.

Aeschliman said he expects to file at least a dozen similar lawsuits over the next few months against the Joliet Diocese. All of the abuse is alleged to have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. There is one female among the 12 victims he is representing. He said he is limiting his representation to people alleged to have been molested by Joliet Diocese priests, though he said he has received at least a dozen more calls from potential victims from at least three other dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"Filing a civil suit is the only remedy these victims have," he said. "They are seeking financial compensation, and we're not going to apologize for that."

Imesch has been criticized for failing to respond to allegations of abusive priests through the years. This year, however, 10 priests in the diocese have been removed amid sexual abuse allegations. Imesch said he wants victims to come forward because the diocese needs to know.

"What else can he say right now considering the climate?" said Stephen Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful, a watchdog group pushing to get rid of abusive priests. Last week, the group asked for Imesch's resignation.


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