CHICAGO (CBS) — The Catholic Church has had 20 years to craft a response to media inquiries about priests accused of sex abuse.
Alleged victims were stunned by the church’s reaction when CBS 2’s Brad Edwards originally asked why two problem priests were being housed next to a school.
While some Dioceses, like Chicago are agreeing to interviews, the Diocese in Joliet is not.
Instead, hiding behind Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s inquiry into Illinois’ six Diocese, launched after the stinging Pennsylvania grand jury report that estimated 1,000 victims of priest sex abuse.
Nearly two months after CBS 2 began investigating, Brad Edwards, once again, requested an interview with the Bishop of the Joliet Diocese.
Father James Nowak has faced a multitude of accusations of child sex abuse. In fact, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet paid out millions of dollars to eight men who claimed Nowak abused them.
When CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards started looking into why Nowak was being housed next to a school, he moved, and moved again.
You won’t believe where Edwards found him now; at an Extended Stay America motel next to the Joliet Catholic Charities offices.
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When Edwards knocked on his hotel room door, Nowak declined to speak to the 2 Investigators, and told CBS 2 to contact the Diocese when asked if they had him move into the motel.
After requests for information and interviews were denied, Edwards went to the Joliet Diocese on Sept. 13 to speak to Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon, at which time Diocese spokesman Ed Flavin lied.
“He’s leaving for Ireland right now,” Flavin said.
Yet Conlon was still in town three days later, at a mass in Shorewood. His pilgrimage to Ireland didn’t start until Sept. 17.
We wanted to ask Conlon in part about Nowak. Are they monitoring him? Why, with eight credible victims, was he once housed next to a middle school? When CBS 2 started investigating, he moved, and moved again to the hotel.
Eddie Burkel and Steve Janik both were 13 when Nowak sexually abused them.
“In helping me button my pants, he got down on his knees in front of me, and put his hand inside my underwear and fondled me,” Burkel said.
“He asked me if I knew what oral sex was. And I said ‘No idea.’ And he said, ‘Let me show you. He took a book out and he showed me,” Janik said.
On Facebook, Nowak recently posted, “Please pray for me. It is a difficult time in my life.”
“In regard to our beloved bishop, Daniel Conlon. He has cared for me well,” Nowak added.
“I’ve never been mad with Father Nowak, which sounds strange, but I’ve been furious with the bishops and the people in the power that have not done the right thing,” Janik said.
“I would think, after all this time, they would learn how to get this right. And they just keep on making mistake after mistake after mistake,” Burkel said.
The Diocese cited Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s inquiry into clergy sexual abuse allegations as the reason they wouldn’t grant Edwards an interview. Madigan’s office said their investigation had no bearing.
UPDATE: After seeing the report on CBS 2, Catholic Charities sent a statement to CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards that reads in part:
“Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet recently learned that James Nowak, a former Catholic priest who has been accused of child sexual abuse, has moved into a hotel next to one of our Catholic Charities’ offices. Catholic Charities was unaware of this arrangement and only learned of it from a television news story. At no time were any of Catholic Charities’ clients at risk. All minors visiting our offices must be accompanied by an adult. Furthermore, Nowak was never at the office.”
Other church leaders, like Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, have granted media interviews since Madigan announced she’s looking into the state’s six dioceses.
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