IL--Notorious predator passes; He worked in Joliet
For immediate release: Tuesday, June 23
One of the nation’s most prolific predator priests – who worked in Joliet - has passed away and a victims’ group wants Catholic officials to “aggressively seek out and help” others who the priest assaulted.
Fr. James M. Janssen reportedly abused at least three dozen boys, often along with other pedophile priests (Fr. Francis Bass, Fr. Theodore Anthony Geerts and Fr. James W. Murphy). He is also accused of pimping his victims to other clerics (Bass, Murphy and Fr. William Wiebler).
For two years (1956-1958), Janssen worked at – and abused at least one child at - St. Isaac Jogues parish in Hinsdale. The victim's mother discovered obscene letters between the Janssen and the boy. She gave them to the parish priest, the priest wrote to the bishop, and Janssen was suspended from his position at Holbrook IL where he worked with "the boy scouts and the teenagers"
Janssen allegedly used sacrilege and petty crime to groom his victims, and sometimes took them out of state to abuse them. Janssen's "stable of boys" ranged in ages from five to 18. He continued to abuse at least one into his twenties, and he kept in touch with several into their adulthood, according to multiple sources (see BishopAccountability.org)
Davenport Catholic officials were “warned about Janssen in 1948 before his first assignment, and he admitted abusing kids to a bishop in 1958. Yet he worked as a priest for 42 years in 14 parishes and was pastor at four of them for a total of 23 years. He was on the Priests' Personnel Board for 13 years and was a Boy Scout chaplain for a decade.
Despite repeated pledges to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex crimes, Janssen’s Catholic colleagues and supervisors in Davenport and Joliet apparently told no one in the public or the parishes about his passing. We suspect they didn’t tell police or prosecutors either. Sadly, none of the dozens of current or former Joliet or Davenport diocesan employees saw fit to spread the news either.
Being honest about the death of a credibly accused predator priest matters for several reasons:
First, it’s comforting when victims know that their perpetrator can no longer hurt any other kids. But that doesn’t happen (or happens years later) if the predator’s death is kept secret.
Second, sometimes victims who are trapped in fear, shame and self-blame feel ‘liberated’ when their perpetrator dies. They are then more apt to speak up, get help, expose wrongdoing and start healing. But that doesn’t happen (or happens years later) if the predator’s death is kept secret.
Third, it’s important and reassuring when bishops keep their promises to be open about clergy sex crimes and cover ups. And it’s distressing – for victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and parishioners – when they do not.
So it’s callous and selfish for bishops and other Catholic staff to keep secret about the death of a pedophile priests.
We call on Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon and Davenport Bishop Martin Amos and every single church employee in both dioceses to show some courage, break their silence, act with compassion and use every possible means to reach out to and help others who were sexually violated by Janssen and his complicit clerical criminal colleagues. It’s not enough for a church official to say “We’re sorry for their crimes.” Church officials must use their vast resources – parish websites, pulpit announcements, new releases and church bulletins – to seek out and console those who have been suffering for decades because of these predators.
Finally, we commend the brave men who were hurt as kids by Janssen and found the strength to expose Janssen and those who protected him for decades and sought – and won – justice in the courts. We hope his passing brings them comfort, knowing that Janssen will no longer ever be able to assault anyone else.
BACKGROUND- - -Janssen worked in many Iowa towns including Victor, Burlington, Clinton, Polishville, East Pleasant Plain, Richland, Newton, Holbrook, Dubuque, Delmar, Fort Madison, Sugar Creek, Grand Mound and Davenport His photo and full work history are available at BishopAccountabiity.org.
A Davenport native, Janssen was born in 1922, ordained in 1948, retired in 1991 and defrocked in 2004. He also worked in the Dubuque archdiocese.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)