Diocese releases records on west suburban priests accused of abuse, adds names to list of the accused
Hundreds of pages of documents were released Tuesday by the Diocese of Joliet offering new details on the accusations against 15 priests — some who served in parishes throughout the west suburbs — accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
The accusations themselves are not new, but the personnel files show — for the first time, in many cases — corroborating information and background on the priests, according to the attorneys reviewing the documents.
A Will County court in January ordered the documents be released in an ongoing lawsuit against the diocese — ruling that public interest outweighs the privacy rights of the priest or the diocese.
The documents were made available to plaintiffs on Tuesday, but there will be a slight delay before they will be published, as lawyers comb through to redact the names of victims.
The firm, Hurley McKenna & Mertz, is representing several men who claim they were abused by some of the 15 priests. All of the accused have left ministry and many are now deceased, but for decades they served in parishes throughout the western suburbs.
The Diocese of Joliet has maintained a public list of priests facing "credible" accusations of abuse, but in many cases it has withheld details. The documents offer entirely new insight on those allegations, said Chris Hurley, an attorney for the plaintiff.
"We have in our possession 15 files on priests on that list, and in those files they contain the background on the priests," he said, "and some of the corroborating information — and why (the accusations) are considered credible."
Among the accused are several priests who served in the western suburbs, including:
– Leonardo Mateo, now deceased, but who in 1984 returned to the Philippines when he was accused of molesting boys at Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst;
– Donald Pock, who served at Divine Savior in Downers Grove and was one of six priests removed in 2002 under "credible" accusations;
– Michael Gibbney, accused of molesting a boy at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Elmhurst and at St. Francis of Assisi in Bolingbrook. He was removed in 1992;
– John Slown, who served at St. John the Baptist School in Winfield and was defrocked and convicted in 1983 after abusing a boy from the diocese;
– Frederick Lenczycki, who was sentenced to five years in prison after he was accused of molesting nine altar boys at St. Isaac Jogues in Hinsdale;
– Philip Dedera, who was accused in a lawsuit of abusing an altar boy over a hundred times at St. Pius X parish in Lombard. The diocese settled that lawsuit.
– Lawrence Gibbs, who is accused of abuse in Lombard, Lockport and Glen Ellyn.
The documents were released as part of a settlement in a lawsuit against a diocese priest, but the information has the potential to affect other suits.
Last June, Hurley filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man who alleges he was abused by Gibbs during the late '70s at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church in Glen Ellyn.
The suit further claims that the diocese “had actual knowledge that Catholic priests sexually abused minor parishioners within the Diocese of Joliet,” and by 1977, “the Diocese of Joliet should have known that Catholic priests, specifically Lawrence Gibbs, sexually abused young boys attending religious retreats organized and supervised by agents and/or employees of the Diocese of Joliet and St. James the Apostle Catholic Church.”