Joliet Diocese Removes Priest from Duties
Abuse Conviction: Served As Chaplain at Downers Grove Hospital
The Associated Press
April 9, 2002
CHICAGO — A Catholic priest convicted 24 years ago of sexually abusing a child in Michigan has been relieved of his duties as a priest in the Diocese of Joliet.
The Rev. Gary Berthiaume worked as a chaplain at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in suburban Downers Grove until Saturday, when he was removed of his faculties — meaning he cannot function publicly as a priest, Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch said Monday.
Imesch said he did not place Berthiaume on leave because the priest was not a member of the diocese, but was simply working there. Imesch refused to say what bishop placed the priest on leave. Calls to the Cleveland and Detroit dioceses, where Berthiaume previously worked, were not immediately returned.
Hospital officials said in a written statement Monday that Berthiaume's access to pediatric patients was restricted.
"We are confident that at no time was patient care or safety put in jeopardy," the hospital said.
Berthiaume was sentenced in 1978 to six months in jail for sexually abusing an altar boy at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington Hills, Mich., according to a newspaper report Sunday. The Detroit Diocese later paid $350,000 to settle a lawsuit over the abuse, the newspaper reported.
The boy's mother, Betty Kedzierski, said she was a single mother and Berthiaume acted as a father figure.
"My son had psychological problems so bad that we had to put him in the hospital" because of the abuse, Kedzierski said. "At Easter time, the pope said we should pray for the priests. Well, what about the children who don't even understand what's happening to them or why?"
The Kedzierskis' attorney, Mark Bello, said Berthiaume was sued by four boys at a parish in Wyandotte, Mich., over abuse that allegedly occurred between 1968 and 1973. Berthiaume also was accused in a 1999 lawsuit of molesting a boy in the 1980s at a Cleveland church, where he was assigned after being released from prison, the newspaper reported.
Berthiaume was accepted into the Joliet Diocese in 1987 by Imesch, who had been Berthiaume's pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Michigan, because he had undergone treatment and would not be allowed near children, according to court documents in an unrelated case obtained by the newspaper.
No accusations here
Imesch said Monday that he was unaware of the allegations in the Wyandotte case when he accepted Berthiaume into the Joliet Diocese. But he said no misconduct allegations were made against the priest while he served in the seven-county Joliet Diocese, and Berthiaume deserved to put the past behind him.
"It is very difficult for someone who has served 12 years as chaplain to have the (newspaper) ruin whatever is left of his life," Imesch said Monday.
As recently as the early 1990s, Berthiaume helped celebrate weekend Mass at St. Irene's Catholic Church in Warrenville, which has an elementary school, the newspaper reported.
The Rev. Thomas Corbino, who was pastor of the church, said Berthiaume began helping with Mass in 1988. He said he did not know about Berthiaume's conviction until 1992, when Berthiaume called to tell him about it, according to court documents. Imesch said in court documents that Corbino was told of Berthiaume's conviction for sexual molestation and that he was restricted from dealing with children or families.
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