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Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

March 2, 2023

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Peoria Diocese Sexual Abuse LawyerReligious institutions provide community, leadership, and common ground for society. They gain the trust of individuals and families by providing a place to worship, learn, and socialize. Unfortunately, that trust isn’t always as sacred as we might hope.

Exploitative faith leaders sometimes use their position in the community to take advantage of their most naive followers. Nowhere is this more true than in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

Despite – or perhaps because of – its role as one of the most powerful institutions anywhere, the Catholic Church has gained a bad reputation for protecting abusive priests.

While once respected for its storied traditions and international outreach, the church has sullied its good name by covering up the predatory actions of hundreds of clergy members.

The Diocese of Peoria is no exception; at least 29 priests have been accused of abuse during their tenure there. If you are a victim, contact our Peoria Diocese sexual abuse lawyers for a complimentary consultation.

Attorneys Committed to Representing Clergy Abuse Victims in Illinois Dioceses

It’s never easy to share one’s story of abuse, but speaking up can be even more challenging when the person responsible is so well-respected. This dynamic has allowed so many priests to continue working despite abuse allegations. As more and more survivors find their voices, though, individual priests and the Roman Catholic Church are being held more accountable for their roles in the sexual abuse crisis.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to obtaining justice for people who officials with the Peoria Diocese have sexually abused via civil lawsuits.

Contact a Peoria Diocese abuse lawyer at our office for a free and confidential case review to discuss your legal rights and options, including filing a sexual assault lawsuit against the diocese.

Allegations of Abuse in the Diocese of Peoria

In 2002, seven Peoria priests were stripped of their collars following sexual abuse allegations. Three more were removed from their posts in 2018.  Tragically, these decisions may have been the tip of the iceberg – a new report names as many as 29 additional priests allegedly responsible for abusing parishioners.

While legal action has been taken by survivors of abuse in other parts of the State of Illinois, no lawsuits directly against the Catholic Diocese of Peoria have been filed thus far. Despite credible allegations against them, the priests named in the most recent report of sexual abuse have been shuffled around to new communities after being accused. Many remain active in the church to this day.

Learning of this inappropriate behaviorPeori – and the continued efforts to protect alleged abusers – can be complex. A database of the accusations levied against the priests in Peoria has been created, but reading through it can be hard to stomach. Whether or not you decide to wade through the allegations, it’s important to remember the power of documentation. By discussing and sharing these stories, we ensure the plight of survivors is not forgotten.

Priests, Bishops & Other Officials With the Peoria Diocese Accused of Abuse

Name: Date of Ordination: Action Taken: Current Status:
Anderson, John C 1959 One of 8 priests who were removed 4/2002; Named in 10/2018 suit against all of the Catholic dioceses in IL; He was said to have sexually abused a plaintiff at St. Edward’s in Chillicothe in the late 1970s early 1980s. Accused
Beebe, Charles 1970 Monsignot; Retired in 2016; Accused in 2018 of sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy in 1981 at the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute; Placed on leave in 6/2018, and police were contacted; Allegations deemed “unsubstantiated,” and he was reinstated Accused
Breuning/Bruening, Walter A. 1954 Retired in 1999; Removed from public ministry in 2002 after an allegation of sexual abuse of minors 20 – 40 years prior; Three suits filed in 12/2005 alleged child abuse Deceased 11/2/2009
Bush, Edward E. 1957 In 2002, 2 women accused Bush of sexual misconduct against them when they were in 6th and 8th grades; He was Removed from ministry in 5/2002; Did not deny charges, and agreed to resign from all active ministry; he sued the Diocese for defamation in 9/2002 Accused
Cassidy, Terry 1984 Removal from public ministry 8/26/2015 due to accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor 30 years prior; Pastor of St. Ann’s in Peoria since 1999 Accused
Cody, J. George 2011 a woman made public her allegations that Cody had abused her and other girls in the 1950s when she was 12 and a polio patient at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center Deceased 1964
Condon, Louis 1948 Removed from active ministry in 1986; 2005, accused of improperly touching and fondling a girl between 1958 and 1960 when she was 6 – 9 years old Deceased 2/17/2009
Creager, Robert J 1954 One of 7 priests asked to step down from public ministry in 5/2002 because of allegations of sexual abuse; Retired in 1998 Deceased 10/25/2008
Engels, Francis (Frank) 1962 He and two other priests were accused of abusing youth in 1978; Put on leave in 1993 when the family took accusations to the media; Admitted to abusing a youth in the 1980s; pled guilty in 4/2005 to sexually abusing a teenage altar boy during trips to Milwaukee in the early 1980s; sentenced in 6/2005 to 10 years in WI prison Convicted
Goodman, Norman D 1960 12 young med filed suits alleging that Goodman abused them (in the 1980s) and that at least twice, diocesan officials were informed of the abuse but failed to take action; Resigned from the parish in 1997; Settlement with the 13 in 1999; Permanent leave in 2002 Deceased 8/1/2013
Harbert, William 1962 Admitted to abusing a 14-year-old in 1982; Accused of abusing three siblings; Resigned from public ministry in 1993 after admitting he abused another youth; Settled in 2005 Deceased 4/24/2003
Hiland, George H 1958 Retired 1994; Removed from public ministry in 11/2018 due to allegations deemed credible of sexual misconduct with a minor; in 2014, known to be living in Sebastian, FL Accused
Leclercq, M. Duane 1964 Retired 2008; Removed 11/2018 from public ministry due to allegations deemed credible of sexual misconduct Accused
Maloney, Thomas W 1967 6/2008 accused of abuse of an 8 year old altar boy; abuse against a woman in 1995/1996; Retired in 9/2002 Deceased 8/7/2009
Mary Jane, Sister 2005 accused of sexually abusing a girl aged 6 – 7 at St. Patrick Catholic School in Washington Sued
Miller, Thomas R 1979 Placed on leave in 2004 after a man alleged that when he was a minor, he had been sexually assaulted by Miller in 1979 in Bloomington; Others came forward with similar allegations; Laicized 11/2006 Accused
Onderko, John M 1962 Retired 2005; Removed 11/2018 from public ministry due to allegations of sexual misconduct Accused
Perron, Toussaint J 1959 Fr. Jeff was removed from public ministry in 1992; convicted in 1993 of aggravated sexual abuse of a boy, 14, at St. John’s in Walnut, IL; Served three years; Settled 5/2008 Deceased 8/23/2011
Pilon, Jerome 1989 On leave 1/2009 for accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor; Accused
Plunkett, Gregory J 1988 Removed 5/2002 after allegations of sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy; suspended after other allegations; filed suit 2/2204 and settled 3/2005 Deceased 10/2/2011
Pusateri, Samuel D 1979 6-year jail sentence after pleading guilty in 1991 to abusing a teenage student in 1990 Convicted
Slavish, Richard 1959 He and six other priests were placed on leave by Bishop in May 2002 after abuse allegations involving minors; He Retired summer of 2002 Accused
Turnbull (OFM), John B 1955 Leave in 2005; Abused a boy in the late 1970s at St. Anthony’s in Streator, IL Accused
Van Acker, Michael R 1981 Medical center chaplain and former chaplain at several high schools, placed on leave 6/2002 because of allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor in the early 1980s Accused

Sexual Abuse Allegations in the Catholic Church

Abuse allegations have been made against members of the Catholic Church for decades. It took until the 1980s for many of these accusations to be taken seriously, though. Extensive media coverage of the crisis gave survivors a platform to share their experiences. We may never know the full extent of the church’s abuse problem, but it’s become clear that a culture of secrecy helped protect the priests accused.

Upon learning of the abuse, the Catholic Church has repeatedly relocated the accused clergy members to new parishes. This strategy protects the alleged abusers while exposing new groups of worshippers to predatory priests. Though church leaders have acknowledged the sexual abuse crisis and apologized to victims, little has been done to hold the accused responsible for their behavior.

A Lack of Internal Accountability in the Peoria Diocese

The Catholic Church’s abuse problem has garnered international headlines. Unfortunately, though, not much has been done to prevent further victimization of parishioners. Rather than share what they know with police, church leaders have repeatedly attempted to cover up priestly impropriety. Though the Pope and other leaders may claim to work towards internal accountability, such efforts rarely result in justice for victims. Instead, the same old abusive clergy members are relocated.

Ultimately, the Catholic Church knows that these allegations are bad publicity. They would rather risk the additional abuse of churchgoers than admit wrongdoing at an institutional level. This contributes to the ongoing protection of abusers – and the continued injustice of survivors.

Life After Clergy Abuse

The impact of child sexual abuse on the victim can be devastating. Children may feel shame, fear, and distrust of others in the short term. They may develop behavioral problems, eating disorders, and struggle in school. Even after the initial shock of abuse has worn off, survivors may struggle with depression and anxiety for the rest of their lives. Trust in authority figures becomes nearly impossible, and seeking help often feels like an uphill battle.

Survivors who seek help are often re-victimized all over again. It’s never easy to speak truth to power, but when a beloved church leader’s reputation is on the line, the allegations can fall on deaf ears. Too often, speaking up about abuse brings conflict and isolation from a community the victim once trusted.

Thankfully, there are resources for survivors of sexual abuse in the church. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, works to support victims and hold predators responsible. They connect survivors with therapists, victims’ assistance offices, and legal tools to aid their post-abuse journey. Such resources can be lifelines for those suffering from the effects of sex abuse.

Peoria Diocese Sexual Abuse Lawyers Pursuing Justice for Victims

While nothing can undo the damage done by predatory Catholic priests in the Peoria Diocese, legal action can help bring abusers to justice and provide a sense of closure for victims. If you or someone you love has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Peoria clergy member, you may want to schedule a consultation with our law firm.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is passionate about protecting victims’ rights while holding predators responsible for their crimes. A single meeting with our team can provide real hope for victims looking for allies in the fight against abusers. Call now to schedule your consultation. We can discuss filing a legal claim or civil lawsuit. As with all civil action claims, you must speak to a lawyer as soon as feasible, as a strict statute of limitations governs the time you have to file a lawsuit against the Illinois dioceses.

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