IL--Joliet bishop passes away; Clergy abuse victims react
For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015
At least 39 Joliet priests are accused of molesting kids and many of them worked under and were protected by the now-deceased Bishop Joseph Imesch. We hope Imesch’s passing will bring some comfort to the hundreds of girls and boys who were sexually violated during his tenure.
One of those 39 is Fr. Fred Lenczycki, the first US priest to be deemed a "sexually violent predator" after being convicted in 2004 of molesting three boys. Another is Fr. Lawrence M. Gibbs, who has been called “Joliet’s most notorious” and “savage” predator priest. http://patch.com/illinois/joliet/joliet-diocese-settles-victims-abuse-claims-against-savage-scary-priests-over-4m-0
Clerics like these wreaked havoc on trusting youngster and their families. And time and time again, Imesch and his colleagues ignored, concealed and enabled these horrific crimes.
We hope Imesch’s passing will also encourage current and former diocesan staff to speak up about clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Joliet. It’s important that all of us share whatever we know or suspect about abuse with law enforcement officials, no matter how old or small or seemingly insignificant our information or suspicions might seem.
As recently as last year, long-secret church records about predator priests had to be pried loose from Joliet’s current bishop Daniel Conlon. So sadly, the disgraceful patterns of neglecting children’s safety typified by Imesch remain largely in place today under his successor.
As we said in 2006, when Imesch retired: “The clerical culture of cover-up went deep in the diocese of Joliet. Bishop Imesch's retirement alone will not guarantee reform.
It is tempting for some to naively believe that things will magically and suddenly improve in the Joliet Diocese with this change, but that is reckless and wishful thinking.
Imesch's tenure has a sordid history. Instead of protecting children Imesch shielded priest predators. Instead of helping victims heal, Imesch directed his attorneys to use legal hard-ball tactics and treated victims as enemies. Most are left with no help for healing from the Diocese of Joliet. In the next few weeks, until his successor takes over, we hope Bishop Imesch will find the courage to finally come clean and reach out to victims still suffering.”
(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)