Five lawsuits filed against Joliet Diocese alleging sex abuse
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 9:57AM
The Vatican told bishops around the world Monday that it was important to cooperate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children and said they should develop guidelines for preventing sex abuse by next May. | The Associated Press
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:21AM
During the summer of 1984, Michael Gibbney, a priest at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bolingbrook, took a group of 10 and 11-year-old altar boys on a “retreat.”
They went to Gibbney’s parents’ Lombard home, where Gibbney provided alcohol and slept with the boys in a camper parked outside the house, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Will County. That night, Gibbney kissed and fondled one of the boys – an act that set off a chain of confusing events that has led to a lifetime of misery for the victim, say his attorneys.
The Diocese of Joliet concealed decades of sexual abuse by its priests in order to maintain the flow of monetary donations and community support for the church, attorneys for several victims of the alleged abuse say. A Chicago law firm filed five new lawsuits in Will County Wednesday alleging priests and one lay teacher sexually abused boys in the 1970s and 1980s.
The victims, who were between 8 and 16 years old at the time, say they suppressed their memories of the abuse until recently, when the diocese released its “secret archives” of files on priests accused of sexually abusing children.
Attorneys with Chicago law firm Hurley McKenna and Mertz say the victims were active in the St. Boniface Catholic Church in Monee, St. Charles Borremeo Seminary in Joliet, St. Dominic Catholic Church in Bolingbrook, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bolingbrook and St. Mary Nativity School in Joliet.
“We applaud these brave men for helping to shine light on the ongoing Catholic abuse and cover up crisis,” Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, outreach director of SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – said in a written statement. “We hope every person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes in Joliet comes forward. Staying silent helps no one.”
The 1984 camping incident wasn’t the first time Gibbney had sexually abused a child, according to diocese files. In fact, the Diocese of Joliet knew about accusations against Gibbney since 1978. Gibbney was sent to Mary Queen of Heaven church in Elmhurst, where he was accused of abusing more boys, diocese records show.
Another victim, now 49, lived in Joliet in 1971 and attended St. Mary Nativity School where he met Emery Stiglich, who was a teacher and principal at the school from 1971 to 1977. The lawsuit claims Stiglich would strip to his underwear and watch boys shower after gym class. Stiglich, who has since died, molested the victim between 1974 and 1977, one suit claims.
Another victim from Bolingbrook attended St. Dominic Catholic Church in 1983. He claims that James Nowak, a priest, took him to local health clubs where they would shower or sit naked together in a sauna or jacuzzi. In 1985, Nowak met the victim at his home, went with him to his bedroom and told him he wanted to bless him. Instead, he put his hands down the victim’s pants, the lawsuit claims.
Meanwhile, Fred Lencyzcki was a priest assigned to St. Charles Borremeo Seminary in Joliet. In 1979, he allegedly abused a 16-year-old boy who he served as a spiritual advisor. The victim, who was from Lockport, claimed in a lawsuit that Lencyzcki molested him after claiming he wanted to dress him in a loin cloth and practice wrapping it properly.
Lencyzcki was transferred to St. Isaac Jogues in Hinsdale, where he allegedly abused multiple pre-teen boys, according to diocese records. In 1985, Lencyzcki was sent to a treatment center for priests with psychosexual problems in California. In 1986, Lencyzcki transferred to a parish in California where he served until 1991, when he began serving as a chaplain at two hospitals in St. Louis until 2002.
Myles White was a priest at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Monee in 1978, where he met a 15-year-old altar boy from Park Forest. White had several teenage boys over at his University Park residence on several occasions, and he got them as much alcohol as they could drink, according to the lawsuit filed against the diocese by an alleged victim of White.
During the summer of 1979, the boy was sick from a day of drinking at White’s home and tried to crash in a guest room, the man’s lawsuit claims. White steered him to his own bedroom instead and molested him, the lawsuit claims.
Such incidents happened in an era when sexual abuse wasn’t openly discussed with children, and in an environment that elevated priests, attorney Mark McKenna said.
“Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s when this was happening, all these individuals felt that they were alone, that it wasn’t happening to anyone else,” McKenna said. “They didn’t understand what was happening, and they didn’t know how to handle this horrific trauma.”
As a result, the victims followed personally harmful paths in adulthood, including alcohol and drug addiction, McKenna said. They have trouble maintaining relationships and distanced themselves from their families, he said.
When the Diocese was forced to release its files detailing records of abuse by priests, the victims’ memories of abuse returned — and they started to understand why they made some of their personal choices, McKenna said. The victims need the diocese to take responsibility for its failure to stop the abuse, McKenna said.
“Only if the diocese takes responsibility can these individuals get what they need in their lives, and that’s closure,” McKenna said.
All of the priests accused in the lawsuits were removed from the ministry between 1992 and 2012. One priest has died, as well as the teacher named in one complaint, the law firm states.
Diocese of Joliet spokesman Jim Dwyer said diocese officials had not yet received copies of the lawsuits and will respond in the appropriate forum once they review the complaints. The diocese has urged anyone who believes they were sexually abused as a child by a member of the clergy, an employee or a volunteer of the diocese to contact authorities as well as the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator by calling 815-263-6467.
“The people of the Diocese of Joliet pray every day for those who have been abused and for those responsible for it,” the statement said. “With God’s help, the diocese will continue to do its best to assure the safety of its children.”