Thousands of pages of documents released April 30 by a Chicago law firm detail decades of sexual abuse by DuPage County priests, including priests with ties to Warrenville and Winfield, and the protection they allegedly received from the Diocese of Joliet.
The files of 16 priests accused of abuse, long held confidential by the diocese, were obtained and released by Jeff Anderson and Associates to coincide with five new lawsuits filed by the firm against four offenders.
Priests named in the diocesan documents include Rev. Salvatore Formusa, who worked at St. John the Baptist Parish in Winfield beginning in November 1964 before being transferred to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield as a chaplain in November 1967; Rev. John Slown, who worked as assistant pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish from 1963 until 1968 and as pastor at St. Irene Parish in Warrenville from 1982 until 1983; and Rev. Phillip Dedera, who now lives in Warrenville.
In 1962, Formusa was accused of sexually abusing a young teenage girl, and he was charged in 1968 of abuse of another girl, according to documents. He was then put on a leave of absence from the diocese until 1976.
That year, he began a job as a therapist for Catholic Charities, where he was accused of abusing female patients, documents show.
Formusa retired in 1985 and died in 2006.
Slown was accused in 1971 of molesting five Winfield brothers and their mother, according to documents. Among other abuse allegations, he also was accused of sexually abusing another Winfield boy in 1978, documents show.
In 1982 at St. Irene, parishioners complained about Slown's erratic behavior, according to documents. Slown also was accused of grabbing the privates of two boys in 1983, documents show.
Slown's current whereabouts are unknown.
Dedera was accused of giving alcohol to boys in junior high school and abusing them, according to documents.
The documents released by the firm show a pattern of secrecy from Joliet diocese bishops, who regularly failed to remove or report priests accused of child sexual abuse, instead moving them to new parishes where they would often repeat the behavior.
The suits brought by the firm seek an unspecified settlement for damages suffered by victims in the '60s, '70s and early '80s. They also seek a court order that "(stops) practices that imperil children and requires them to come clean and publicly disclose files of all (priests accused of abuse)," Anderson said May 1.
The recently released files are a portion of 34 sought by the firm, he said.
"We're working very hard with the survivors to reveal the past so it's not repeated," Anderson said. "The diocese and the bishops have a long history of concealing the past and their role in the crimes committed by the clerics.
"It's classic tension between those who want to reveal the painful truth and those who want to hide it."
Diocese spokesman Ed Flavin said that, in accordance with common business practice, the diocese does not release confidential files of employees, and the 16 files turned over to the firm were done so under court order.
"We do, however, share any and all information which is relevant to an ongoing investigation with law enforcement or as instructed to do so by the court," Flavin said. "We make available any and all credible allegations of priests on our website."
The priests cited in the lawsuit are Rev. Leonardo Mateo, Rev. Lee Ryan, Rev. Lowell Fischer and Rev. Frederick Lenczyzki.
In a statement, the Diocese of Joliet said it had not yet been served with the five lawsuits filed in Will County, and would "respond in an appropriate forum" once it reviewed the specifics of the pleadings.
"Anyone who may have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the diocese is urged to report the abuse to civil authorities and to the diocese," the statement read. "Reports may be made to any pastor or by contacting the diocese’s director for the Office of Child and Youth Protection at 815-221-6116.
"Dealing with the tragic history of child abuse is part of the Church’s ministry today. The people of the Diocese of Joliet pray every day for those who have been abused and for those responsible for it. They ask the Lord for healing for all His people who suffer for what has happened in their midst. With God’s help, the diocese will continue to do its best to assure the safety of its children."
To view the documents, visit www.abusedinchicago.com.
Editor Mary Beth Versaci contributed to this report.