July 31, 2005

Lawyers say abuse case could crack Joliet Diocese

Chicago Daily Herald

By James Fuller
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Diocese of Joliet is urging a DuPage County judge to seal the personnel file of a former Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse, setting up a legal battle to force church officials to name both victims and other priests with similar charges.

A Glen Ellyn man in his late 40s identified only as “John Doe” is embroiled in a civil lawsuit against Edward Stefanich. Doe accuses the defrocked priest of repeatedly sexually abusing him between 1969 and 1970. Doe was a 12-year-old student at Christ the King Elementary School in Lombard at the time. Stefanich, now in his late 60s, served six months in jail on a separate aggravated criminal sexual assault charge in 1987, committed while he was a priest.

Doe’s attorney, Jeff Anderson, said the diocese has been bulletproof until his client’s case He said church officials shook off at least half a dozen similar accusations in the last decade because the alleged abuse traced back beyond the statute of limitations for such charges.

“The Diocese of Joliet has yet to be held legally accountable, and this is the first case where any survivor may get a chance to make his sordid story known,” Anderson said. “The bishop and his officials have hid behind statute. Now the wall of deception and deceit has begun to crack.”

Posted by kshaw at July 31, 2005 08:41 AM