Ex-Joliet Priest Placed on Leave
California Diocese: Ross Temporarily Suspended during Abuse Investigation

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
April 23, 2002

JOLIET — A California diocese said Monday it has temporarily suspended a priest who admits that he sexually abused a 15-year-old Joliet boy in 1981.

The Rev. Anthony J. Ross, 56, was placed on administrative leave by the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa pending further investigation. Ross served at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet in the 1970s and at other parishes in the Joliet Diocese until 1993, when he transferred to California.

The Santa Rosa Diocese said authorities are investigating Ross' service as director of detention ministry. The diocese's Sensitive Issues Committee recommended the suspension, which Bishop Daniel Walsh imposed Monday. The diocese has received no complaints about Ross' conduct in California.

"The district attorney and the sheriff's police have asked around, but they haven't turned up anything," said Deirdre Frontczak, communications director for the diocese.

In a statement released Monday, Ross apologized to the Joliet-area family of the person he sexually abused 21 years ago.

"I acknowledge that I have caused pain to the young man from Illinois and his family because of my actions in the early 1980s, for which I am profoundly sorry," Ross said.

A 36-year-old Joliet-area man says that in 1981 Ross molested him on two occasions at a residence at St. Peter Church in Itasca and then attempted to molest him at a cabin in Lake Geneva, Wis.

Monday the survivor and his father said Ross' apology doesn't go far enough.

"(Ross) committed a crime. He has not paid the penalty. He has been given a free pass," the survivor said.

The man's father said he wonders how long the temporary suspension will last.

"I don't think Tony Ross should be a priest. It would be nice for him to minister to people in jail, but for him to do so as a priest is a sham," the father said.

The parents maintain that Bishop Joseph Imesch, head of the Joliet Diocese since 1979, assured the family in 1983 — and that another diocesan official promised in 1993 — that Ross would no longer serve as a priest.

"That people at that level would lie to the laity and expect people to believe them ever again, it's mind-boggling. What Bishop Imesch did is deliberate. He knows what he's doing. He knows where his priests are. They're functioning on in an effort to cover up what happened," the father said. The family asked that their identity not be revealed.

Neither Imesch, the other diocesan official nor anyone from the diocese replied to requests made by The Herald News in recent days to respond to the specific claims made about Ross.

The Joliet Diocese erroneously said Wednesday that Ross already had been placed on administrative leave, when in fact the Santa Rosa committee did not meet to review the case until Thursday.

Ross is the fourth priest associated with the Joliet Diocese to be suspended this month because of claims about past sexual abuse. The others are the Rev. Gary Berthiaume, the Rev. Phillip Dedera and the Rev. Carroll Howlin.

Ted Slowik can be reached at (815) 729-6053 or via e-mail at


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