March 29, 2006

Priest's parish letter denies abuse charges

Chicago Tribune

By Lolly Bowean
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 29, 2006

A Catholic priest who was placed on leave last month amid allegations that he sexually abused a boy more than 20 years ago while serving at a church in Mokena, has formally denied the allegations in a letter to former parishioners, officials said.

Rev. James Burnett, who had served at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet from 2002 until he was placed on administrative leave in February, wrote the letter last week that was copied and distributed as an insert to the Joliet church's Sunday bulletin, officials said.

In his letter, Burnett thanks parishioners for their support and prayers.

"I am innocent of all the accusations that have been made against me, and I know that that innocence will prevail," he wrote.

"The many days since my departure have been dark, some darker than others," he wrote. "I do believe deeply in the power of prayer, and I do believe that your prayers will bring this situation to a happy conclusion."

Last month a 34-year-old man who now lives in Phoenix came forward with allegations against Burnett.

Posted by kshaw at March 29, 2006 07:16 AM