Accusing Illinois’ Catholic churches of a decades-long cover up, three men and a woman who claim they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Illinois Roman Catholic priests have joined together to sue all of the state’s Catholic dioceses, asking a judge to order the dioceses to release the names of priests who have been accused of child sexual abuse since 1950.
“Each Defendant (diocese) has repeatedly and misleadingly represented that it will take action to prevent sexual abuse while simultaneously concealing information about its knowledge of sexual abuse of minors from law enforcement and the general public,” the complaint asserts.
“Defendants have, for decades, and continue to adopt policies and practices of covering up criminal activity committed by its agents. These practices continue to the present day.”
The complaint was filed Oct. 17 in Cook County Circuit Court by plaintiffs Darin Buckman, Joshua Bollman, Cynthia Yesko and a man identified only as “John Doe 595.” They are represented in the action by attorneys Marc J. Pearlman, of the firm of Frost & Pearlman LLC, of Bannockburn, and Jeffrey R. Anderson, of Jeff Anderson & Associates P.A., of St. Paul, Minn.
As defendants, the lawsuit names the Illinois Catholic Conference and the dioceses of Belleville, Springfield, Joliet and Rockford, the Chicago Archdiocese and the Catholic Bishop of Chicago, among others.
Noting the lawsuit is brought as a public nuisance action, Anderson said at a press event in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 18, the lawsuit has been filed to uncover a “conspiracy” among Illinois’ Catholic bishops, who oversee the state’s Catholic churches, “to hide a public hazard.”
The lawsuit, Anderson said, is “designed to hold the bishops and their conference … accountable in disclosing the secrets they’ve held, the dangers they know of that have yet to be disclosed.”
The lawsuit notes three Illinois dioceses have never disclosed any names of any priests accused of sexual abuse. And the three others have only disclosed partial lists.
The lawsuit demands an accounting of all priests working in Illinois, whether living or dead, who have been accused of abuse.
“The top officials of Defendants had a pattern and practice of hiding and not disclosing facts that sexually abusive priests served in active ministry,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants have misrepresented and underreported the true nature and number of sexually abusive priests that have served in active ministry for Defendants.”
Each of the named plaintiffs has asserted they were victims of rape or other sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests at Illinois churches as children, some as early as age 4.
Priests identified as alleged sexual abusers in the complaint include Father John Anderson, who was assigned to the Peoria Diocese; Monsignor Charles Beebe, of the Peoria Diocese; Father Peter Kohler, who served as Provincial Vicar of the La Salette Missionaries and was assigned to the Rockford Diocese; Father Stanislaus Yunker, of the Springfield Diocese; and Father Louis Schlangen, of the Springfield Diocese.
The lawsuit asserts the bishops of those dioceses had knowledge of the sexual abuse allegedly committed by the priests working in their churches.
The lawsuit asks the court to order the dioceses to “publicly release the names of all agents, including priests, accused of child molestation, each agent’s history of abuse, each such agent’s pattern of grooming and sexual behavior, and his or her last known address.”
The lawsuit also asks the court to bar the dioceses from investigating abuse accusations within their organization, but rather to cooperate with the state and other “civil authorities to create, implement and follow a policy to deal with sexually abusive clergy that will better protect children and the general public from further harm.”