Suit alleges abuse by 2 priests in ’70s
Arizona man seeks $350,000 in civil case
April 28, 2006|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune staff reporter
An Arizona man has accused two priests of sexually abusing him more than 30 years ago at St. Pius X Parish in Lombard, according to a $350,000 civil lawsuit filed Thursday in DuPage County Circuit Court.
Tim Greco, 43, of Gilbert, Ariz., alleges that Rev. Phillip Dedera sexually molested him more than 100 times, starting in 1974 when the plaintiff was an 11-year-old altar boy. He also recounted how Rev. Richard Bennett, now pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Community Church in Naperville, caught Dedera in the act, but instead of reporting it to church or civil authorities, allegedly fondled the boy after a mass.
Contacted by telephone Thursday, Bennett tearfully denied the allegation, adding that Greco’s complaint had been investigated by the Joliet Diocesan Review Committee and was deemed “not credible.”
Dedera could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In a statement, diocese spokesman Tom Kerber said the review committee would reconvene soon to discuss the present situation. There have been no other allegations made against Bennett, Kerber said. For the time being, he said, Bennett will remain in ministry with restrictions.
Dedera was suspended from ministry in 2002 after church officials found an allegation against him to be substantiated. In a deposition taken in August 2005, Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch confirmed that Dedera had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
Greco said at least one incident of abuse happened on a trip to Wisconsin, where the statute of limitations applies only to residents and therefore would not shield the Illinois priest from criminal prosecution.
While the recollection of abuse surfaced during alcohol abuse treatment years ago, Greco said it was the sight of his 11-year-old son that pushed him to contact Imesch about Dedera in 2004.
“I decided to come forward as a father,” Greco said. “It just destroys me to know there are men out there who can do this to children.”
It was not until a later conversation with his attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, that he realized what Bennett allegedly did was also wrong.
The diocese was informed of the allegations against Bennett in a letter to Imesch and diocese attorney James Byrne in August 2004.
Kerber said neither Greco nor his attorney responded to an invitation to present the allegation to the review committee or to provide additional information. Anderson said the diocese already had enough information by then to draw a conclusion.
Both Dedera and Bennett were ordained in 1972. Dedera also worked at churches including St. Andrew the Apostle in Romeoville, Visitation Parish in Elmhurst, St. Walter Parish in Roselle, St. Mary in Downers Grove, St. Scholastica in Woodridge, St. Mary in Paxton and St. Patrick in Momence. His last two assignments were in Naperville, at Edward Hospital and St. Patrick’s Residence.
Bennett has worked at churches including St. Dennis in Lockport, St. Raphael in Naperville and Sacred Heart Church in Joliet
Diocese apologizes for priest remarks
April 18, 2002|By David Heinzmann, Tribune staff reporter.
Catholic Diocese of Joliet officials scrambled Wednesday to apologize for the comments of a priest who said he had “no sympathy” for victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
After the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., suspended former Joliet priest Rev. Anthony J. Ross because of an allegation that he sexually abused a teenage boy in Illinois in 1983, his brother, Rev. Richard Ross of Joliet, made inflammatory remarks that were printed in a newspaper Wednesday.
“I don’t have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn’t stop whatever happened,” Richard Ross told the Joliet Herald-News. “I’ll take all of these people who were abused, and I’ll abuse them with a baseball bat. You can quote me on that.”
The Joliet Diocese issued an apology Wednesday afternoon for Ross’ statements, which Bishop Joseph Imesch called “absolutely contrary to our beliefs and sensitivities and all that we stand for.”
The Santa Rosa Diocese has placed Anthony Ross on administrative leave while the allegation is investigated. Church officials there said they would cooperate with any police investigation. Anthony Ross has been at Santa Rosa since 1993, although he was officially assigned to Joliet until 1997, church officials said. Santa Rosa church officials said Ross requested the relocation. In California, Anthony Ross’ assignments included prison ministry and AIDS Ministry Outreach but no parish assignments, church officials said.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Diocese spokeswoman Sister Judith Davies said Wednesday that church officials have not been able to reach Richard Ross, but the comments “will be addressed with Father Ross.”
The statement from Imesch’s office said that Ross’ remarks were out of character with his career of service as a priest.
“All can attest to Father Richard Ross’ lifelong excellent reputation for faith-filled and dedicated ministry, especially to those in need. Therefore, we cannot reconcile his statements with his exemplary ministry, nor can we attempt to explain them.
“We can only apologize on behalf of ourselves, the clergy, and all of our parishioners to all victims, their families and to all who are hurt by what was said.”
Attempts to reach Richard Ross at St. Bernard’s Parish, where he is pastor, were unsuccessful.
Anthony Ross is the fourth priest with a connection to the Joliet Diocese in three weeks to be removed from his duties because of allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct with boys.
In the first week of April the diocese removed Rev. Gary Berthiaume from his position as chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove after it was revealed that he had been convicted of molesting a child in Michigan 24 years ago. Last week, Rev. Phillip Dedera was removed from his position as a chaplain at Edward Hospital in Naperville and chaplain at St. Patrick’s Residence, a Naperville nursing home.
Church officials said they had received a “credible” allegation that Dedera sexually abused a teenager in 1974 while he was serving at St. Andrew Parish in Romeoville. Diocesan officials said they believe the allegation against Dedera is factual and warrants no further investigation. He is receiving counseling.
Monday, the diocese acknowledged that Rev. Carroll Howlin has been suspended from his ministry in rural Kentucky, where he has worked as a missionary since 1977. Howlin is accused by a former seminarian of sexual abuse while he taught at St. Charles of Borromeo Seminary near Romeoville.
FOR THE RECORD – Additional material published April 19, 2002:
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS.
A story in Thursday’s Metro section incorrectly reported that Rev. Anthony J. Ross, who has been accused of sexually molesting a teenage boy in 1983 in the diocese of Joliet, had been placed on administrative leave by the diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif. In fact, Ross remains on active duty in prison ministry in California while the Santa Rosa diocese investigates the allegation. The incorrect information was supplied by the diocese of Joliet.