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Bill Jones, Editor
5:01 pm CDT March 22, 2019

A report released by a Minnesota-based attorney who advocates for sexual abuse victims names 395 alleged abusers and others with accusations of misconduct who have served, past and present, in the Catholic Church in Illinois.

The 185-page report includes all six Illinois dioceses, and publishes background information, photographs and assignment histories of Catholic clergy and laypersons accused of sexual misconduct. Among those named in the report were priests who over the years have had assignments in 22nd Century Media’s southwest suburban coverage area.

Some of the allegations previously have been reported by 22nd Century Media and other publications in some cases predating this company. Some of the allegations also have been publicly reported by various dioceses or archdioceses. The assignments of priests to churches in 22nd Century Media's coverage area are noted in the text that follows, but many of those priests were assigned to other parishes, outside of our coverage area, as well. More information is available in the full report at andersonadvocates.com.

In the wake of the report, both the Archdiocese of Chicago and Diocese of Joliet issued statements. The Archdiocese said it reports all allegations it receives to civil authorities and does not “police itself.”

“If the Archdiocese of Chicago receives an allegation that a religious priest has engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor, the archdiocese reports it to the civil authorities, publicly withdraws the priest’s faculties to work in the archdiocese, and refers the matter to his religious superior,” according to the statement.

The Archdiocese statement also took issue with how the report “conflates people who have been accused, but may be innocent, with those who have substantiated allegations against them,” and offers several examples, some of which have been noted in the text that follows. It also notes the differences that pertain to religious order priests.

The Diocese of Joliet similarly noted it reports “all allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement” and in cases that involve victims who are still minors to DCFS. It said all allegations in the report previously were reported by the Diocese to authorities and has posted a list on its website since 2006.

“All credibly accused priests have been removed from ministry,” according to the Diocese statement.

The statement further noted the Anderson Report includes allegations that were “unsubstantiated or deemed not credible by the Diocese of Joliet Review Board, or the claim did not involve child abuse.” It also notes some priests were of visiting status, and in such cases or those involving allegations against members of a religious order the diocese has revoked their authority to minister in the Diocese of Joliet.

“The Diocese of Joliet continues to express its genuine regret and profound sympathy to any victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Joliet and elsewhere,” the statement added. “We are committed to promoting the healing and reconciliation of survivors, and the protection of our children today.”

Orland Park

• Michael W. O’Connell: Assigned to St. Michael Church (1984-1989) and Our Lady of the Woods Church (1998-2012), both in Orland Park

The priest reportedly was removed in December 2013 from a position at St. Alphonsus Parish after sexual misconduct involving a minor boy 20 years earlier when he was working at Our Lady of the Woods was alleged. A second allegation surfaced in April 2014 regarding a different minor boy being sexually abused at the same church. O’Connell reportedly was reinstated to active ministry that month, after law enforcement found insufficient evidence to prosecute. He is currently assigned to St. Alphonsus.

The Archdiocese notes the allegations were first brought forth in December of 2013. O’Connell’s status is active, because the allegations were investigated by civil authorities and found to be unfounded by the Department of Children and Family Services, and unsubstantiated by the Archdiocese of Chicago Independent Review Board, according to the archdiocese’s report.

• Paul O’Toole: Thought to have been living in Orland Park

In 2004, a woman received a settlement from the Archdiocese of Chicago after reporting she was sexually abused by the priest in 1966 when she was 16 years old.

The Archdiocese said O’Toole died in 2017. The Archdiocese contended the allegation “did not relate to abuse of a minor,” and noted O’Toole had resigned before the first allegation was received.

Tinley Park

• Leonard G. Huske: Assigned to St. Julie Billiart Church in Tinley Park (1982-1988)

The priest reportedly was removed from public ministry in 2018. He is on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s list of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

• Michael Weston: Assigned to St. Julie Billiart Church (1977-1981)

The priest was ordained in 1973 and a few years later the archdiocese received allegations of child sexual abuse, but no action was taken, according to the report. He reportedly resigned in 1993. At least three survivors reportedly have accused Weston of child sexual abuse. Weston was laicized in 2009 and is included on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s list of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

Lockport

• Richard L. Bennett: Assigned to St. Dennis in Lockport (1973-1976).

The priest was ordained into the Diocese of Joliet in 1972 and reportedly has been named in at least one civil lawsuit alleging child sex abuse. He allegedly sexually abused an 11- or 12-year-old boy at St. Pius X parish in Lombard, where he was assigned from 1976-1979.

Bennett remained in ministry until 2007. In 2007, the lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by him was dismissed. 

• Andrew L. Buczyna: Assigned to St. John Vianney Church in Lockport (2000-2008).

Buczyna was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1987 and one person has publicly accused the priest of child sexual abuse. He was removed from ministry in 2008, according to the report.

• Thomas A. Corbino: Assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary High School in Lockport (1977-1978) and St. Anthony Church in Frankfort (2000-2008)

The priest was ordained into the Diocese of Joliet in 1972 and has been accused by two people of engaging in sexual misconduct with a minor. In 2011, he allegedly was “inappropriate with a minor” while he was a pastor at both St. Irene parish in Warrenville (where he was assigned from 1988-1999) and St. Anthony Parish (2000-2008) in Frankfort.

The Diocese of Joliet’s investigation found he had been inappropriate but that it did not rise to the level of sexual abuse, according to the report. Corbino reportedly resigned from his position at St. Pius X in Lombard and was assigned under supervision at Central DuPage Hospital and worked there for nearly a year before being removed by hospital administration.

• Arno A. Dennerlein: Assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lockport (1972) and St. Anthony Church in Frankfort (1979-1990)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1969 and four people have accused him of child sexual abuse that reportedly occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 2003, he was removed from public ministry. He has been named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors against them.

• William Dugal: Assigned to St. Joseph Church in Lockport (1977-1984)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1976. He retired in 2000 and was removed from ministry in 2002 amid child sexual abuse allegations. He was named on Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against them.

• James Frederick: Assigned to St. Charles Seminary in Lockport (1966-1967), St. Anthony in Frankfort (1973-1978) and St. Charles Borromeo in Lockport (1983-1988)

In 2013, documents released by court order revealed the Diocese of Joliet was aware of the priest’s alleged sexual abuse as early as 1967. He was put on leave but later allowed to continue working in the diocese. He was included on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them.

• Lawrence Gibbs: Assigned to St. Joseph Church in Lockport (1981-1982)

The priest was ordained in 1973. In 1979, police conducted an investigation into allegations that he had sexually abused children while assigned to Christ the King Catholic Church in Lombard. Although the police found no evidence of wrongdoing, parishioners continued to send complaints regarding his conduct with boys. He was transferred to St. Joseph Church in Lockport, where he was placed in charge of the altar boys training program. He was allowed to continue working until he was placed on leave in 1992.

In early 1993, a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleged that Gibbs sexually abused him dozens of times for seven years, beginning when he was 11 years old. Following the lawsuit, several people came forward, saying they, too, had been sexually abused by Gibbs, according to the report. In total, more than five lawsuits have been filed naming Gibbs. He has been named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against them.

He was removed from ministry in 1992.

• Carroll Howlin: Assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary High School and College in Lockport (1968-1975)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1961 and served in several parishes throughout Illinois. In 1993, someone accused him of child sexual abuse in the 1970s while at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary High School and College. He was subsequently sent to St. Luke’s, but was allowed to stay in ministry.

In 2002, another former St. Charles Borromeo student came forward, accusing Howlin of sexual abuse during the 1970s. In 2003, two brothers came forward accusing him of child sexual abuse in Kentucky. He has been named in four clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. In 2002, he was officially removed from ministry and the Vatican banned him from unsupervised contact with minors, according to the report. He has been named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against them.

• Frederick Lenczycki: Assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lockport (1976-1978)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1972. It is reported that he sexually abused at least 30 boys in three states during his approximate 25-year career as a priest. He reportedly has been named in multiple civil lawsuits. The first report of child sexual abuse by Lenczycki was in 1984 by a 12-year-old boy at St. Isaac Jogues, according to the report. Fr. Lenczycki was subsequently removed and sent to the House of Affirmation.

Lenczycki was removed from the priesthood and convicted of sexually abusing three boys in 2004, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2006, he was remanded to mental treatment facility to determine if he was still sexually dangerous and, in 2008, a jury deemed him sexually violent and too dangerous for release. Thereafter, he was sent back to prison until his release in 2009.

Lenczycki is named on the Illinois sex offender registry and on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them. According to the Diocese of Joliet, Lenczyski was dispensed from obligations of the clerical state in 2016.

• J. Anthony Meis: Assigned to St. Joseph Church in Lockport (1975)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1972. In 1994, it is thought that he left his position at Saints Mary and Joseph amid allegations that he sexually abused a child at Saints Mary and Joseph in the late 1980s, according to the report. After he reportedly received therapy, he was sent to serve in St. Louis, Missouri, at St. Anthony’s Medical Center from 1994 until he was removed from ministry in 2002. He has been named in at least one civil lawsuit and was included in the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against them.

• Donald P. Pock: Assigned to Lewis College in Lockport (1968)

Pock was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Joliet in 1958. Two people have accused him of child sexual abuse, with the first reporting the abuse in 1975. In 1976, he was placed on sick leave. In 2002, he was removed after allegations of child sexual abuse were deemed credible. He was named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them.

• Lee Ryan (F. Lee, Francis Lee): Assigned to St. Charles Borromeo in Lockport (1986-1990)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1968. In 2010, someone accused him of child sexual abuse in 1974 at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox. He was removed from ministry in 2010 and temporarily returned to ministry in 2012, only to be removed again later that year. Ryan has been named in one civil lawsuit. He was named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against them. His status as a priest and whereabouts from 2011 through his death in 2016 are unknown.

• David Stalzer: Assigned to St. Dennis in Lockport (1981-1987)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1974, In a 1993 civil lawsuit, he was accused of child sexual abuse that allegedly occurred in 1981 while he worked at St. Dennis in Lockport. It is thought that he returned to active duty later that year under supervision and with limited contact with children, according to the report.

Mokena

• James Burnett: Assigned to St. Mary in Mokena (1974-1990)

After working for over three decades in the Diocese of Joliet, the priest was placed on administrative leave in 2006, after a man filed a lawsuit alleging he had been sexually abused as a child by Burnett. According to the lawsuit, Burnett sexually abused the boy approximately 40 times at St. Mary Church in Mokena, starting in 1978, when the boy was 8 years old.

At some point following the first accusation, a second man came forward also alleging he had been sexually abused by Burnett. In March of 2007, the Diocese of Joliet announced that its Review Committee found the first accusation not credible but was unable to resolve the credibility of the second accusation, according to the report.

Following the first two accusations, a third man came forward and filed a civil lawsuit. It is thought that this lawsuit was eventually settled in March of 2013, according to the report. After the lawsuit was resolved, the Diocese of Joliet reportedly conceded that all three allegations against Fr. Burnett had been substantiated and deemed credible. The Diocese of Joliet also added

Burnett to its list of priests with a credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them.

• William D. Virtue: Assigned to St. Mary in Mokena (1982)

The priest was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 1975. The first reports of child sexual abuse by Virtue came in 1984. By 1986, he had left the Diocese of Joliet and was incardinated into the Diocese of Peoria. In 2006, a lawsuit filed against Virtue alleged that he repeatedly sexually abused a 10-year-old boy at St. Mary’s in Mokena in 1981. Virtue subsequently was removed from public ministry in the Diocese of Peoria. In 2007, Virtue reportedly was working in the Diocese of Rockford but was removed from all public ministry by 2009. Virtue was named on lists published by three dioceses.

Frankfort

• Salvatore Formusa: Assigned to St. Anthony’s Parish in Frankfort (1976-1984)

Formusa allegedly sexually abused young girls as early as 1962. In 1968, after being accused of sexual misconduct with a girl younger than 16 years old, he was removed and placed on sick leave, according to the report. In 1976, he reportedly was allowed to return to the Diocese of Joliet, where he worked until his retirement in 1985. Formusa was included on a diocese list of priests facing credible allegations.

• Lowell Fischer: Assigned to Motherhouse, Novitiate, Sacred Heart Residence, Portiuncula, Center for Prayer - Retired in Frankfort (1999-2001)

The first known allegation against the priest was made in Hawaii, where he relocated for approximately 18 years from the Diocese of Joliet in 1975. Upon his return to the Diocese of Joliet in 1993, it is thought that Fischer was placed on restricted ministry, according to the report. A second allegation of abuse was made against Fischer in 2002, after which he was removed from ministry. In 2014, he was named in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet pertaining to a third accusation of sexual abuse. He was included on a diocese of priests with credible allegations against them.

New Lenox

• Harold Jochem: Assigned to St. Jude Church in New Lenox (1978-1989)

He was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1930 in the Diocese of Joliet. In 2004, a civil suit was filed by a man alleging that he was abused as a youth, between 1974 and 1978, at St. Jude’s Parish in New Lenox by Jochem, and a brother, Jeffery Salwach. The suit alleged that Jochem and Salwach forced the boy to engage in group sex, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol. It is reported that Jochem was deceased at the time the suit was brought forth. 

• Richard J. McGrath: Assigned to Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox (1986-2017)

McGrath is an Augustinian priest. In late 2017, a student reported having seen an image of a naked boy on McGrath’s cellphone. McGrath reportedly refused to turn over his cellphone to police. In 2018, McGrath was named in a lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a boy from 1995-1996, while he was the president at Providence Catholic. In September 2018, he was reportedly transferred from Providence to the St. John Stone Friary near a preschool and a Catholic grade school. In December 2018, McGrath is said to have left the friary.