At least 16 priests with area ties on Illinois list of alleged sex offenders

At least 16 priests with area ties on Illinois list of alleged sex offenders

CHAMPAIGN — At least 16 priests with area connections are among the nearly 400 Catholic clergy members and church staff in Illinois named in a report — released Wednesday by a Minnesota-based law firm — that accuses them of sexual misconduct.

All had been previously mentioned on lists released by the Joliet, Peoria and Springfield dioceses, but Wednesday's report by attorney Jeff Anderson is the largest list of accused clergy in Illinois and includes where each priest served.

It comes after a report in December by former Attorney General Lisa Madigan, which found that Illinois dioceses had only publicly identified 185 accused clergy out of the 690 it had been made aware were alleged to have committed sexual abuse.

The new report accuses the Illinois dioceses of "orchestrating an institutional cover-up of enormous magnitude" by transferring and retaining alleged perpetrators.

The Springfield, Peoria and Joliet dioceses all issued statements Wednesday about the report, explaining why some names on the list aren't on their own publicly available lists, either because they never received allegations or found them to be unsubstantiated or not credible.

"The report is an impressive professional marketing brochure, but it does not represent, as Mr. Anderson suggests, a thorough and diligent review of the publicly available facts, and it is highly misleading and irresponsible," said Andrew Hansen, spokesman for the Springfield diocese.

The report includes former Champaign Mayor Robert Dodd, who served parishes in Highland and Pana in the 1960s before leaving the priesthood in 1971.

He was mayor from 1983 to '87, and in 1994, Dodd was named in a child sex abuse lawsuit, according to the report. His name was also on the Springfield diocese's list of clergy with substantiated cases of sexual abuse of a minor.

Dodd died in 2013 in Champaign.

The other local priests accused in the report include:

Gordon Pillon. He has been accused by two people of sexually abusing them as children. He joined the ministry in California in the 1980s before joining the Peoria diocese in the early '90s. He worked at St. John's Catholic Chapel in Champaign in 2000 and at Sacred Heart in Farmer City in 2003. He was placed on leave in 2007 after the allegations were made.

Lee Ryan. He served at St. Edmund in Watseka from 1992 to 2010, when he was accused of child sex abuse in 1974 at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox and removed from ministry. He temporarily returned to the ministry in 2012, but was removed again later that year, according to the report. Ryan died in 2016.

William Virtue. He was at Sacred Heart in Farmer City in 2002 and had moved on to the parish in Harmon the following year. The first accusations of child sex abuse against him were made in 1984. He allegedly repeatedly abused a 10-year-old boy in Mokena, according to a lawsuit filed in 2006, after which he was removed from the ministry in the Peoria diocese. After reports surfaced of him working in the Rockford diocese, he was later removed from all public ministry in 2009, according to the report.

Jerry Pilon. He served at St. Anthony's in Hoopeston from 1993 to 1998. In 2009, he was accused of sexually abusing a child about 12 years earlier. After the allegation was made, Pilon was removed from the ministry, according to the report.

Paul Dinan. He served at St. Mary's of Paxton from 1945 to 1954, 1974 to 1975 and 1979 to '80. He lived in Paxton during retirement from 1987 until his death in 1996. After he died, allegations of sexual abuse of a minor were made, according to the report.

William Iserman. He served at St. Anthony's in Hoopeston in 1960 and was removed from the ministry in 1993 "due to allegations of abuse of a minor," according to the Peoria diocese. He then lived in Urbana from 1993 to 1994, according to the report. Iserman died in 1998.

Anthony Meis. He served St. Joseph in Cabery from 1981 to 1988. He then served at Saints Mary and Joseph Church in Chebanse, where he allegedly sexually abused a child and then left in 1994, according to the report. He died in 2015.

Thomas Miller. He worked at Schlarman High School in Danville from 1984 to 1988 and then at two different parishes in Peoria. In 2004, he was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1979 while at a parish in Bloomington. More accusations followed, and in 2004, Miller was placed on leave. He was laicized in 2006.

Phillip Dedera. He served at St. Mary's in Paxton from 1986 to 1988. He was removed from the ministry in 2002 after allegations of abuse from the 1970s were made public. Another man came forward in 2006, accusing Dedera of sexually abusing him more than 100 times at the age of 11 or 12. Another filed a lawsuit alleging Dedera offered him marijuana to help him forget an assault by another priest.

Ronald Roth. He was the director of the Good Shepherd Apostolic House of Prayer in Urbana in 1977. He allegedly sexually abused three boys and a girl when he worked at parishes in New Mexico. In 1993, he was removed from the ministry after the Peoria diocese became aware of the lawsuit. Roth died in 2009.

Oliver Walsh. He served at St. Peter's in Piper City from 1972 to 1975. After he died in 1975, he was accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The Joliet diocese has called the allegations credible, but they remain unresolved.

Robert Creager. He served at Immaculate Conception near Pesotum from 1970 to 1974. He was removed from the ministry in 2002 after being accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Creager died in 2008.

Francis Engels. He served at St. John in Champaign from 1963 to 1965. After being accused in 1993 of sexually abusing children in the 1970s and '80s, Engels acknowledged the encounter, but said the accuser had been over 18 years old. He was removed from the ministry that year. In 2005, Engels was sentenced to 10 years in a Wisconsin prison following a civil lawsuit alleging abuse in both Illinois and Wisconsin.

Walter Breuning. He worked at St. Patrick's in Urbana from 1955 to 1959. Breuning was removed from the ministry in 2002 after allegations that he sexually abused a child 20 to 40 years earlier. Breuning has been named in three civil lawsuits, including one filed by two brothers claiming they were sexually abused in the late '60s to early '70s. Breuning died in 2009, according to the report.

Bernard Tomaszewski. He served at Our Lady of Lourdes in Gibson City from 1925 to 1926, at St. Elizabeth's in 1935, in Tolono in 1936, in Colfax Township in 1937 and at St. Boniface Church in Seymour from 1938 to 1941. He was removed from the ministry in 1946 and is on the Peoria diocese's list of priests removed due to allegations of abuse of a minor. The report said Tomaszewski is believed to be dead.

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