Five new lawsuits alleging cases of sexual abuse by priests and a Catholic school principal were filed in Will County Circuit Court Wednesday.
Two of the suits stem from incidents that occurred in the 1970s and '80s at St. Mary Nativity School in Joliet and at the now-closed St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, which was located off Route 53 in unincorporated Joliet.
The other three cite abuse that occurred at St. Dominic Catholic Church and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, both in Bolingbrook, and at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Monee.
Diocese of Joliet officials knew about or suspected the abuse, "yet engaged in a pattern and practice of hiding what it knew, and covertly transferring pedophile priests around the diocese and out of state -- ultimately to protect its interests instead of the interests of the children entrusted to it," according to a statement released by Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, the Chicago law firm that filed the lawsuits.
In each of the cases, the victims had "repressed" the memories of the abuse, attorney Mark McKenna said Wednesday.
"The reason they are coming forward now is they can't believe (the widespread nature of the abuse)," McKenna said. "They all thought they were alone. ... They found ways to put it away and live their lives."
Information corroborating the lawsuits was found in the 7,000 pages of documents the diocese released in March as part of the settlement of an unreleated lawsuit handled by McKenna's firm, he said.
One suit filed Wednesday charges that Emery Stiglich, a teacher and principal at St. Mary Nativity, 706 N. Broadway St., sexually abused Joseph Prebeg from 1971 to 1977. Prebeg was 8 or 9 years old when the abuse started.
From 1971 to '72, it's alleged that Stiglich -- who is now deceased -- would teach gym class and then watch the boys as they showered, sometimes stripping down to his underwear, the suit said. He would comment on the boys' genitals and pubic hair, sometimes while touching Prebeg's genitals, the suit said.
Then, between 1974 and '75, it's alleged that Stiglich assigned Prebeg to sit in the last row of desks in his classroom, allowing Stiglich to fondle the boy's genitals both over his pants and below. In some instances, he would cause Prebeg to ejaculate and in others, he would have Prebeg fondle him, the suit said.
In a second suit, it's alleged that the Rev. Fred Lencyzcki began a series of sexual encounters with a then 15-year-old boy -- identified in the suit with the pseudonym John Doe -- in 1979, when the teen was studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
The abuse began when Lencyzcki told the teen he had been asked to oversee the burial of a young boy whose parents wanted him dressed in a loincloth, just like Jesus, for his funeral, the suit said. Lencyzcki asked the teen to allow to him to dress him in a loincloth so he could "practice," the suit said.
"He began touching and prodding plaintiff’s waist, buttocks and genital area under the guise of tucking in and adjusting the loincloth," according to the case, and on different occasions touched the boy's penis and anus.
Because of the abuse, the teen ended up leaving the seminary in 1980.
Lencyzcki worked at diocese parishes and schools from 1972 until 1985, when he was placed on leave. He wasn't removed from the ministry until 2002, and is now listed on the diocese's Web site as having at least one credible allegation of sexual abuse of a child made against him, the suit said.
All of the lawsuits are attached to this story and can be read in their entirety.