Joliet Mass Honors Accused Clergymen

By Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune
April 12, 2006

Apr. 12 — That Rev. Salvatore Formusa is accused of abusing a child while working in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet does not change the fact that he has devoted 71 years to the church.

So during an evening mass at St. Raymond Cathedral on Monday—the same day the diocese disclosed that Formusa and 21 other priests faced substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors—Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch paid tribute to Formusa and 22 others for their decades of service.

Also honored at the mass for his golden anniversary was retired Bishop Daniel Ryan, who was not on the list of those with allegations, church officials said, because the accusations against him originated in Springfield after he served as an auxiliary bishop in Joliet. Those allegations have been forwarded to Rome for review.

"Neither Bishop Ryan nor Father Formusa attended last evening's Chrism mass at the cathedral," Joliet diocese spokesman Tom Kerber said Tuesday. "Their names were listed because they were among a number of jubilarians recognized for reaching significant anniversaries."

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the tributes to the accused priest and bishop underscore a troubling contradiction in a number of dioceses where church leaders invite victims to come forward, then honor the perpetrators, he said.

"I think the most kind interpretation is gross insensitivity," Clohessy said. "In some instances, it feels like part of broader effort to deter and discourage victims from coming forward. ... Each time, it's like rubbing salt into an already and still-fresh wound."

It also highlights the predicament facing parishioners when a beloved priest is accused of an unthinkable sin. Catholics believe priests can transform bread and water into the body and blood of Christ. The faithful cannot fathom tarnishing the reputation of their beloved priest.

"Overall he mostly did good things," Clohessy said, "but substitute 'performed an abortion' for 'molested a child, and you're just not going to find a priest who has preached some form of heresy being honored."


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