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Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Abuse In Late '60's

Stefanich convicted in the '80s for abusing girl

Sep 24, 2003 | Chicago Daily Southtown,

A Joliet diocese priest who served time in jail for molesting a west suburban girl in the 1980s had abused children more than 15 years earlier, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed in DuPage County, alleges that the Rev. Edward Stefanich abused a man identified only as John Doe 85 while Doe was a student at Christ the King Catholic School in Lombard.

The lawsuit accuses Stefanich of abusing the man, now in his late 40s, in 1969 and 1970. Stefanich served at Christ the King from 1969 to 1974.

At a brief news conference outside diocesan headquarters in Joliet, Pearlman said his client repressed all memory of the alleged abuse until 2001.

In 1987, Stefanich was pastor of St. Scholastica Church in Woodridge when he was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for molesting a 14-year-old girl.

Police found 16 guns in his bedroom and rectory office. Stefanich pleaded guilty to reduced charges and served six months in prison. Joliet Auxiliary Bishop Roger Kaffer later admitted there were rumors of a relationship between Stefanich and the girl before the priest's arrest.

Diocese spokesman John Cullen said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and was not notified of the news conference. He said the diocese would fulfill all its legal obligations.

"We will cooperate with the proper authorities and seek justice like anyone else," Cullen said.

Stefanich has not acted as a priest since his prison term and was not in ministry in the Diocese of Joliet, Cullen said. He said he did not know Stefanich's whereabouts.

Six lawsuits filed in Will County by Joliet against diocesan priests were dismissed in May because they fell outside the statute of limitations.

Ten priests were removed from ministry in the Diocese of Joliet last year after allegations of sexual abuse. Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch transferred several priests accused of molestation to new ministries, and two priests were accused of abusing again after their transfers.

DuPage County indicted one diocese priest on sexual abuse charges; 29 other priests were investigated by that county's state's attorney.

Authorities in Will County were unable to charge any priests because the statute of limitations had expired on their crimes, but prosecutors said that in 10 cases there was evidence improper sexual conduct took place.

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