Survivors of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Joliet diocese react to Illinois AG's report

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Survivors of sex abuse in Joliet diocese react to IL AG report
The Illinois attorney general had the sharpest criticism for the Joliet Diocese's handling of sex abuse investigations, and two survivors experienced that firsthand.

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- The sharpest criticism in the Illinois attorney general's report on sex abuse in the Catholic church in Illinois is for the diocese of Joliet and its handling of reported abuse cases under the late Bishop Joseph Imesch. The report details 69 cases of abuse there.

David Rudofski and Eddie Burkel had never met before Tuesday, but both men are survivors of sexual abuse by different priests in the Joliet diocese.

READ MORE: Child sex abuse by IL Catholic clergy spans state and decades, attorney general's report said

"As an adult I've learned how it affects you and how it just breaks you down," said Burkel.

Burkel was a 13-year-old altar boy at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Bolingbrook when he was abused by Father James Nowak.

Rudofsi said he was 8 years old when Father James Burnett abused him at St. Mary's in Mokena.

"It was in my first confessional and extremely painful," he recalled.

A few years ago, both men took the brave step of going public with their stories, and spent years in litigation with the Diocese of Joliet.

The Illinois attorney general's scathing 700-page report on Catholic Church abuse was particularly critical of the Joliet diocese, especially under Bishop Imesch's leadership. The report said, "The diocese covered up abuse committed by Joliet priests by shifting them off to new parishes without relaying their history of abuse."

Burkel is one of 28 survivors abused by Nowak.

"This is a great example of one priest that was protected over and over," he said.

The attorney general's report said hundreds more Catholic clerics in Illinois abused children than previously reported by church leaders across the state, including in Joliet. While the report recommends transparency, Rudofski doubts a real commitment for the diocese.

"I feel like it's lip service," he said. "I don't get the feeling that they're actually doing the right thing for the right reasons."

The report also recommend dioceses across Illinois help survivors recover from the trauma.

"I have received no contact from the diocese after my litigation and settlement, no offer of support, counseling, guidance," said Burkel.

The Joliet diocese's new Bishop Ronald Hicks was not available for an interview, but did release a lengthy written statement expressing profound remorse over any failure to respond to an allegation of abuse with prompt and compassionate attention.