The Catholic Diocese of Joliet will release as part of a lawsuit settlement more than 7,000 internal documents that reportedly show every bishop since the 1950s has been aware of diocese priests sexually abusing children.
The documents include personnel files and other items related to 15 diocese priests accused of sexual abuse over a 50-year period ending in the 1990s. They will be released by plaintiff David Rudofski through his Chicago lawyer, Terrence Johnson, as part of his settlement with the diocese.
Rudofski was 8 years old and making his first confession at St. Mary's Church in Mokena when he was sexually molested by the Rev. James Burnett in the 1980s. He filed a personal injury suit against the diocese in 2007.
Read more: Joliet Diocese Updates List of Credibly Accused Abusers
The settlement, approved Wednesday by Will County Judge Michael Powers, also includes an undisclosed amount of money for Rudofski and a written statement from current Joliet Diocese Bishop R. Daniel Conlon admitting Burnett's sexual abuse of Rudofski, Daniel Shanahan and a third man whose identity has not been made public.
Previously, Burnett denied he had any sexual contact with Rudofski as a child.
In the first step toward making the diocese records public, three memos not related to the Rudofski case were released by Johnson. The victims' names were redacted.
(The actual documents released today are included in the media section with this post.)
The documents relate to sexual abuse reportedly carried out by the Rev. James Frederick in 1967 involving several boys working and staying overnight at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lockport. In them, the boys describe to the Rev. Roger Kaffer, then the seminary rector, how Frederick touched and rubbed their penises while they were in bed at night.
The statements were sent to then-Bishop Romeo Blanchette, along with a memo from Kaffer about Frederick's unemotional response when confronted with the allegations. Frederick told Kaffer he wasn't sure what happened because he had been drinking, according to the documents.
"It dismayed me that he gave no indication of remorse, made no reference to the spiritual implications of all this to himself or to the seminarians," Kaffer wrote. "(Frederick) asked me what the bishop would do, and I said I was not sure. Would the bishop remove him from the seminary? I said I did not think it would be good for him or the seminarians if he were to remain—did he? He said he thought he could control his problem."
Frederick was not removed from the priesthood, and went on to serve as the pastor and associate pastor of several churches. He died in 1988.
Conlon issued a statement in reference to the Rudofski lawsuit settlement, saying that while he was "not present during the unfolding of this history, I feel a deep concern for the victims/survivors of abuse and their families. Their pain does not go away with the changing of bishops."
However, he also expressed concern that releasing the documents may cause more pain for the victims and that "no human action, really, can fix the past."
"Even with the volume of material now available through the release of these records, much of the content was previously reported by the media," he said. "Nevertheless, I realize the details that may be revealed are likely to open old wounds. I regret the pain that this information will cause victims/survivors, since many of them will vividly recall what they endured as if it happened yesterday."
He added that the diocese has updated its policy on child abuse and protection and hired a full-time director of child and youth protection to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.