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 Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Itasca and Roselle, 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 the Rev. Anthony Ross, who worked as associate pastor at St. Peter Parish in Itasca from 1980 until 1982 and as associate pastor and then temporary administrator at St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale from 1989 until 1990; the Rev. Phillip Dedera, who worked as associate pastor at St. Walter Parish in Roselle from 1979 until 1984; the Rev. Donald Pock, who worked as pastor at St. Peter Parish in Itasca from 1987 until 2002; and the Rev. Salvatore Formusa, who worked at St. Luke Parish in Carol Stream from 1967 until 1968.
Ross was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1981 or 1982, according to documents prepared by the law firm. After two leaves of absences and an assignment at Sacred Heart Parish in Lombard, Ross was assigned to St. Isidore Parish.
Dedera was accused of giving alcohol to boys in junior high school and abusing them, according to documents. When he was assigned to St. Walter Parish, his ministry was limited to adults. Dedera now lives in Warrenville.
Pock was accused of sexually abusing minors, but the Joliet diocese allegedly framed the issue as a drinking problem, according to documents. Parishioners at St. Peter complained about the priest’s alleged drinking in 1991, and he is put on leave in 2002 due to past allegations of sexual abuse. He died in 2004.
During Formusa’s time at St. Luke Parish, he was charged with fondling and touching a girl younger than 16 years old in 1968, according to documents. He was put on a leave of absence in 1968, before being reassigned to St. Anthony’s Parish in Frankfort in 1976. He also was accused of abusing other victims, including female patients he treated while a therapist with Catholic Charities, documents state.
The diocesan documents released by the law 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 the Rev. Leonardo Mateo, the Rev. Lee Ryan, Rev. Lowell Fischer and the 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.