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Peoria Diocese Details Allegations

Feb 23, 2004 | Quad City Times

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced Monday that its officials know of 14 diocesan priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors since 1950.

The diocese did not release the number of people who reported sexual abuse by priests or the names of the priests they accused. Of the 14 priests, five are dead, the diocese said, and one priest was removed from the ministry during the early 1990s.

In 2002, Bishop William Jenky asked eight priests to step down from public ministry due to credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors, the diocese said.

The removals disclosed by the diocese at that time included three priests from the Illinois Quad-City region. Among the priests listed were Gregory Plunkett, former pastor at St. Catherine’s Parish in Aledo and St. Mary’s in Keithsburg; Norman Goodman; Edward Bush, who served as pastor at St. Patrick in Colona; John Anderson, who served in various positions in the towns of Henry and West Peoria; Robert Creager, who served as pastor at St. Patrick in Ottawa; Walter Bruening, who served as pastor at St. Joseph and St. Mary in Henry; and Richard Slavish, who served as pastor at St. Anthony in Matherville and at St. John in Viola.

The Rev. Francis Engels, the former pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan, resigned from public ministry in 1993 amid allegations of sexual molestation incidents dating from the early 1970s.

The late William Harbert, who previously had served St. Joseph Parish in Rock Island and Christ the King Church in Moline when cases of molestation are alleged to have occurred, also resigned voluntarily.

The Peoria Diocese has paid slightly more than $900,000 in settlements, which came from insurance coverage and diocesan capital gains, not from the annual diocesan appeal, officials said.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests have claimed that such reports are not accurate because they are self-reported by bishops.

“Obviously, there may be cases of misconduct about which the diocese knows nothing,†the diocese statement read.

About 700 priests have served the Peoria Diocese since 1950, and there are 220 now serving the diocese’s 193 parishes and missions.

“All available research indicates that there is no greater incidence of sexual misconduct within the Catholic community and its priesthood than in other faith communities,†Jenky said in the news release.
“I do not say this to in any way excuse what is always and absolutely inexcusable, but only to place the problems afflicting our church in context,†he said.

The statistics mirror those provided by the diocese for a research study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which seeks to document sexual abuse allegations made nationwide since 1950. That study is scheduled to be released Friday.

The Catholic Diocese of Davenport has not yet released an internal report detailing allegations of sexual abuse since 1950.

“It’s going to be released in the very near future,†Davenport Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Monday. “We plan to issue more detailed information†than the Diocese of Peoria, he added.

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