• Liz Venerable

Joliet Priest Fights Back

Rev. Peter Jankowski from the historic Joliet church (710 W Marion St.) said in his homily on Sunday, Jan 8:

"I have struggled with these issues for years and, at the advice of members from my parish council and staff, I chose to remain silent while behind the scenes helping this parish deal with issues that might not have been considered abuses in the past, but in hindsight certainly are considered as such today."

In his emotional homily, the parish priest stated that his diocese put children at potential risk. Although his homily did not cite any specific examples of abuse, it was implied.

Jankowski has complained for years that his retired predecessor showed lax enforcement. In a September letter to the pope, Jankowski said that his superiors, including Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, failed to act upon his complaints over the years.

Jankowski said he discovered through post-charter audits that his predecessor, Rev. James Lennon, failed to ensure proper criminal background checks on more than 60 church members and volunteers who had access to children within the parish school.

Jankowski also complained that Lennon, before his 2006 retirement, allowed priest Edward Poff to improperly participate in certain church functions. Poff is one of about 35 publicly named diocesan priests against whom credible allegations of child abuse were made, according to the diocese.

Clergy child abuse issues expert Marci Hamilton said, “While many priests across the country have brought concerns to their superiors, few have taken the additional step that Jankowski did in making such a public statement.”

This is the oldest parish in St. Patrick's and it serves 655,000 Catholics in seven counties with 1,300 families in the diocese. Jankowski said he preferred to let his homily "speak for itself." He delivered the homily three times in church and he later emailed it to the larger church community.

The dispute pits a first-time parish priest against a veteran cleric. This dispute also shows the difference between an old-school approach and the modern church's promise to be more transparent and vigilant.

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