Illinois Bishop Forces Whistleblower Priest Onto Sabbatical

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 6, 2019   

Fr. Jankowski: 'I have to answer to God about how I have lived as a priest'

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JOLIET, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest wanting to shield minors from potential sex abuse in the diocese of Joliet, Illinois is now on a forced sabbatical.

Father Peter Jankowski was removed as pastor from St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Joliet and put on a forced sabbatical by his ordinary, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, last July. Jankowski, who was pastor at St. Patrick's from 2006 until his removal, was voicing his concern over fallacious background checks conducted at his parish by its former pastor, Fr. James Lennon.

Jankowski was even more concerned by Fr. Lennon's frequenting of his parish accompanied by clerics who had been removed from active ministry owing to credible allegations of sex abuse.

Jankowski told Church Militant, "My predecessor at St. Patrick's (Rev. James Lennon) continuously brought these priests on church property during his tenure and mine (from 1995 through 2007 when I stopped the practice), on school days when [there were] children present, often unbeknownst to those on the property."

Jankowski told Church Militant he wanted to protect children in his parish from known sexual predators — such as clerics with credible allegations of sex abuse against them — and from volunteers of unknown character owing to their backgrounds not being properly vetted. When he turned to Conlon as Joliet's new bishop in 2011, he got no help. Even more disconcerting was Conlon's admission that he would do nothing to reign in Lennon's unwanted involvement at Jankowski's parish.

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Disgraced Bp. Daniel Ryan (right) at St. Patrick's

in 2008 attending Fr. Lennon's anniversary Mass

"Bishop Conlon consistently defends Fr. Lennon," said Jankowski, "and instructed me in 2016 to allow him back on the property, even though his history of being accompanied by these priests (including Fr. Ed Poff and Bishop Daniel Ryan) was never announced to parishioners.

Instead of helping Jankowski protect his parishioners from sexual predators, Conlon actually warned Jankowski in 2011 that he'd "hold him personally responsible for any cases of sexual abuse occurring at St. Patricks," said Jankowski.

Matters grew worse that year as Jankowski became aware that clerics who were quietly removed from ministry for allegations of sexual abuse were housed near churches and schools without the diocese alerting school officials, local law enforcement or parents. This scandal was reported just last fall by local news stations.

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Fr. Ed Poff (right) at Fr. Lennon's 2008 anniversary Mass

"Bishop Conlon consistently has shifted predator priests removed from active ministry from one residential neighborhood to another," said Jankowski, "without communicating to those in the neighborhoods that predators live among them."

It was when Jankowski wrote to Pope Francis in January of 2018 about this problem that Conlon decided he had to take action against him, related the priest. The bishop purported to use the letter as a sign that Jankowski was having a so-called crisis in his priesthood.

"I wrote to the Holy Father on numerous occasions about Conlon but received nothing in response. I asked the Pope in 2018 how I can remain a priest when these abuses continue to take place," explained Jankowski. "The bishop used this letter as an excuse to remove me from parish ministry."

He added, "The bishop can punish priests who challenge them on sex abuse."

I have to answer to God about how I have lived as a priest. The rest of my existence depends on how I act now.

"I only have about a hundred years in this world and then I have to answer to God about how I have lived as a priest," Jankowski said. "The rest of my existence depends on how I act now. I have committed many sins but I don't want the enabling of child abuse to be one of them."

Church Militant reached out to the diocese for comment but was told by Alex Rechenmacher, the bishop's executive assistant and acting director of communications, there would be no comment.

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