Four More Diocese Priests Removed
Cannot Publicly Say Mass after Misconduct Allegations Surfaced

Chicago Sun-Times
May 6, 2002

Four more priests from the Joliet Diocese have been removed from public ministry because of sexual misconduct allegations.

Six other priests associated with the Joliet Diocese have already been suspended from their ministries because of past allegations of sexual abuse.

The four priests are included in the files that diocesan officials have turned over to state's attorneys in Will and DuPage counties, said Sister Judith Davies, the chancellor for the diocese. "They were part of that group."

The priests, which include two pastors, were removed after the Diocesan Review Committee considered the allegations made against the men.

The Rev. Donald Pock, pastor of St. Peter's in Itasca, and the Rev. John F. Barrett, pastor of Mary Queen of Heaven in Elmhurst, have both been placed on administrative leave, Davies said.

Two retired priests, the Rev. Lowell Fischer and the Rev. Edward Poff, have also been restricted from publicly saying Mass, Davies said.

Davies, who would not return calls Sunday to The Herald News, provided very little detail about the allegations and could not say where the priests were assigned when the alleged misconduct occurred.

The following details were provided by Davies: Initial allegations against Barrett date back 30 years and were investigated in 1992, Davies said. They were found to be "not substantiated," she said. When asked why Barrett's case was reviewed again, Davies said: "We do have this commitment to protect children, to put an end to sexual misconduct."

Barrett has been pastor at Mary Queen of Heaven since 1996.

The diocese was made aware of the allegations made against Pock, who has been a pastor at St. Peter's since 1987, about a month ago, Davies said. The review committee recommended he be removed as pastor, she said. The allegations date back 25 years.

"The committee had reason to believe the allegations were credible," Davies said. "He is in a safe place where he poses no risk to children. He's not permitted to function as a priest."

Fischer was the target of a lawsuit in the early 1990s, but it was later dropped, Davies said. The diocese was made aware of the allegation, as well. Another incidence of alleged abuse dating back 25 years was reported within the past month, she said.

Fischer took a leave of absence from the diocese in 1975 and moved to Honolulu. Upon his return to the diocese in 1993, he was assigned to serve as chaplain for retired religious women at St. Francis Convent in Frankfort and was on "restricted ministry," which means he would not be assigned to a parish, Davies said.

Fischer has now been placed on "further restricted ministry," which means he cannot say a public Mass and he must remain confined to his quarters when members of the public visit the convent, Davies said.

She said the recent report was about an alleged incident in Hawaii.

Poff's history

An allegation of sexual misconduct was made against Poff in 1994, the same year it reportedly happened, Davies said. He was removed from parish ministry and received therapy, she said. He was placed on "restricted ministry" at St. Mary's Hospital in Kankakee, where he served as a chaplain until 2001. Since his retirement that year, Poff had been occasionally saying Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Joliet.

A Herald News story that ran in June 1978 said the Rev. Edward Poff served as pastor of St. Bernard's Church in Joliet for eight years before he was transferred to Immaculate Conception Church in Morris. Poff was still pastor in Morris in 1988 when the church's bell tower was hit by lightning.

A 1993 story mentions him serving as pastor of St. Andrew's Church in Romeoville. Poff was officiating the funeral of a Joliet Junior College student who died in a Halloween car accident.

Church members of St. Patrick's Church in Joliet said Poff had retired but was assisting his longtime friend, the Rev. Jim Lennon, pastor of St. Patrick's.

Lennon read a letter to parishioners at early Masses on Sunday, several sources told The Herald News. He skipped reading the letter at a later Mass, perhaps because a class was making its first Communion.

Calls to Lennon were not returned Sunday.

A motion to allow public access to the documents is pending before Will County Circuit Court Judge Herman Haase. He was scheduled to hear more arguments today and issue a ruling June 6 on Joliet attorney Keith Aeschliman's request to make all the sealed files available to the public.

Herald News reporter Kim Smith contributed to this report.


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