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UPDATE: Diocese of Peoria responds to sex-abuse lawsuit

Four people who say they are victims of priest sexual abuse are suing Catholic dioceses across the state of Illinois for more information about clergy accused of sexual assault.

The lawsuit filed against the Illinois Catholic Conference and the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet, Rockford, Springfield, Belleville and the Archdiocese of Chicago calls on them to release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, and those who may have had a part in covering up abuse.

Law firm Anderson and Associates, the attorneys on the case, said in 2004 Bishop Daniel Jenky released the identities of 16 priests removed from ministry in the Diocese of Peoria who were removed due to the abuse of a minor. The lawsuit alleges the diocese continues to conceal information about priests on the list, and the names and information about accused priests not on the list.

The lawsuit also claims Jenky made comments on August 22, 2018 which “trivialized” the problem of sexual abuse of children by priests. In an August 21 statement released to media, Jenky commented on a sexual abuse case involving clergy in Pennsylvania. Jenky said a “close reading” of the grand jury indictment in that case shows it was focused more upon crimes from years ago from today.

Jenky said in August that church handling of such cases has since improved, with volunteers undergoing background checks and child safety education.

“We are doing all we can to provide a safe environment for our children to
grow in every way and in their faith,” said Jenky in the August statement.

The lawsuit said the dioceses failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse, citing two examples from the Peoria area. Darin Buckman, who attended St. Edward’s Parish in Chillicothe. Buckman said he was assaulted by Father John Anderson between 1979 and 1984, when he was 8 to 14 years old.

Buckman said Jenky and Chancellor Patricia Gibson ignored his multiple complaints about the sexual assault when he came forward.

A statement from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria contests that claim, calling it “inaccurate.” The diocese said they have had conversations with both Buckman and the attorneys representing him as recently as October 17, 2018.

Anderson was asked by Jenky to step down in 2002 following allegations of sexual misconduct. The diocese said Anderson is forbidden to practice as a priest.

A John Doe who attended Spalding Institute in Peoria said Monsignor Charles Beebe had “unpermitted sexual contact” with him when he was 15 in 1981.

The diocese said they became aware of the allegations against Beebe in July 2018. Beebe was placed on administrative leave, and the allegation was forwarded to the Peoria Police Department. The diocese said police investigated the accusation and Beebe’s personnel file. After the investigation was concluded, the diocese said the matter was taken to the Diocesan Review Commission, where the allegations against Beebe were found to be “unsubstantiated and could not be deemed credible.”

Beebe was reinstated following the decision. He retired in 2016.

The lawsuit said the Diocese of Peoria had knowledge of the abuse, but hid it from other students and the victim’s families and failed to act to prevent other acts of abuse.

The lawsuit demands the church release the names of all people accused of sexual molestation, their history of abuse, and their patterns of grooming victims, along with their last known addresses. The lawsuit also seeks to require the Catholic Church in Illinois to work with civil authorities to create, implement and follow policies to deal with sexually abusive clergy to protect children and the public.

“Under the direction of Bishop Jenky, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria remains
committed to maintaining a safe environment to all children,” said the statement.

IL-Catholic-Conference-Complaint-filed

Tim Shelley

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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