A report of sexual abuse committed in the late 1950s in the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., by a now-defrocked Davenport priest surfaced in late April because of law suits filed against the Joliet Diocese.
Jeff Anderson & Associates, PA, filed the lawsuits and released the files of 16 priests who had served in the Joliet Diocese and had been found to be credibly accused of clergy sexual abuse.
Among them was James Janssen, who helped out at a parish in Hinsdale Ill., from late 1956-1958 while on indefinite leave of absence from the Diocese of Davenport. News reports indicate that Janssen, 91, lives in the Quad Cities.
Bishop Martin Amos of the Davenport Diocese responded to the news reports with a statement of apology this month and asked for prayers of healing for survivors of abuse.
“I am deeply saddened by the news we heard of the abuse in Hinsdale, Illinois, by James Janssen in the 1950s that was found credible by the Diocese of Joliet. I was unaware of the recent report made to the Archdiocese of Chicago by a person who was abused by Janssen over 50 years ago. James Janssen was laicized (defrocked) by the Vatican in 2004 and no longer functions as a priest. I continue to pray and urge everyone to pray that the healing process for the survivors of abuse will continue.”
Bishop Amos noted that the diocese “will continue to promote safe environments for children by mandating ongoing training in recognizing and eliminating threats to children, complying with the Charter and Norms of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and mandating background checks for all clergy and for employees and volunteers who work with children. Alicia Owens, the victim assistance coordinator for the diocese, will continue to provide assistance to survivors of abuse.”
Davenport attorney Craig Levien, who represented the Hinsdale abuse survivor, said the abuse occurred while Janssen was on leave from the Diocese of Davenport and serving at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale. The priest also was taking classes at Loyola University in Chicago and sought treatment from a psychiatrist at Loyola who later wrote to Bishop Ralph Hayes that Janssen was cured. Janssen returned to the Davenport Diocese and was assigned to a parish in Holbrook, diocesan attorney Rand Wonio said. After the 14-year-old Hinsdale altar boy’s mother discovered a sexually explicit letter her son had written to Janssen, she reported it to St. Isaac’s pastor, Levien said. The pastor reported the incident to Bishop Hayes.
Court records show Janssen was told to leave Holbrook and go to New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, for spiritual counseling. The abbott determined that Janssen was free from sin. Janssen then was reassigned to St. Patrick Parish in Delmar on Jan. 26, 1959. The bishop stipulated that Janssen was not to have any contact with the “boy in Illinois.”
Janssen, ordained to the priesthood in 1948, is accused of the sexual abuse of 36 male minors. The earliest claim dates back to 1953, according to a list of credible allegations against priests, Brothers and lay employees posted on the Davenport Diocese’s website.