May 17, 2006

A note to Bishop Sartain

Chicago Tribune

Published May 17, 2006

Bishop James Peter Sartain, welcome to the Chicago metropolitan area. You will arrive from Little Rock next month with the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI--and with more knowledge than we hold of the troubled Diocese of Joliet that you inherit.

In introducing you Tuesday as his replacement, Bishop Joseph Imesch reminded us all of how small a void he'll leave. He has been a tremendous disappointment to those who long relied on Roman Catholic leaders in Illinois to offer strong moral voices on such crucial matters as education, health care and social policy. Owing to the refusal of Imesch and other leaders to interrupt patterns of crime, those voices don't carry the authority they once did.

Imesch has been a greater disappointment, as you know, to what should have been his first allegiance: his flock. He is a spectacular study in how to squander the trust of the faithful.

We've noted previously on this page that Americans curious about the failure of many bishops to report sexual abuse by clerics owe gratitude to Imesch. During a deposition he gave last August, he put words to the code of silence that protected his diocesan subordinates--if not the innocents they allegedly exploited:

- During the deposition, an attorney quizzed Imesch about a deacon's report to diocesan officials in 1985 that a Woodridge priest might be having an improper relationship with a 14-year-old girl. Did Imesch contact police? "I would not do that," the bishop responded. "There is no verification. There is no hard evidence that this was happening. And I'm not going to go say, `Hey, police, go check on my priest.'"

Posted by kshaw at May 17, 2006 04:18 PM