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.