Bishop Tells Students about Sex Abuse Issue
Imasch Speaks to Elmhurst College Group

By Ron Pazola
The Herald News
April 18, 2002

ELMHURST — Some bishops have zero-tolerance policies when it comes to abuse by priests, but Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch believes some priests can still minister, though not in parishes, in some situations.

Such priests, with proper supervision, could serve as chaplains in hospitals and in nursing homes, Imesch said Wednesday at Elmhurst College.

Imesch was addressing Elmhurst students as part of a series of multi-denominational talks on issues of faith.

Five religious figures associated with the Joliet Diocese have faced discipline since April 5 because of past claims of sexual abuse.

Among them is the Rev. Gary Berthiaume, a convicted sexual abuser whom Imesch allowed to serve as a chaplain in the Joliet Diocese.

Berthiaume served jail time in 1978 for molesting a 12-year-old altar boy while serving at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Michigan.

Imesch, who had been Berthiaume's pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows, allowed Berthiaume to serve here. Berthiaume most recently worked as a chaplain at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

But on April 8, Berthiaume was suspended by the Cleveland Diocese, which has authority over him even though he served in the Joliet Diocese.

On Wednesday night in Elmhurst, students eventually asked Imesch about the problem of sexual abuse by priests.

Imesch said he recently met with a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. He said it was one of the most difficult experiences he has had.

"I wept," Imesch said. "The man was very traumatized."

After the meeting, Imesch told some reporters that candidates to the priesthood must undergo extensive psychological testing. The process, he said, involves a battery of psychological tests and three extensive psychological interviews by two priests and one psychologist.

The purpose is to determine whether the candidate will be an effective priest and if there is anything in his background that will cause problems in his ministry.

Most of the comments from students were positive.

Kevin Licht, a sophomore at North Central College in Naperville, said the bishop addressed the issue appropriately, but he thought the talk was not meant to address sexual abuse by priests, but to address issues of faith.

Leia Roeges, 23, was not a student, but she wanted to attend the talk because she was angry at the youth sex-abuse cases by some priests. She wanted to get a better understanding of that problem in the church.

She was glad Imesch spoke about the problem and hopes the bishop will continue to address it, because Catholics need to hear it. She also believes the Catholic Church will, in the end, make the right decision on priest abuse cases.


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