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There’s quite a storm brewing out in Illinois, involving allegations of sex abuse, lawyers, the bishop and, it seems, the media:
In a letter dated for distribution this weekend to Catholic parishes throughout Central Illinois, Jenky expresses concern over media coverage and court rulings he thinks have been unfair to the diocese.
“Amid all the tensions of our nation’s culture wars and in the face of the media’s intense hatred for our Catholic faith, I am increasingly concerned that our Church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law,” wrote Jenky.
The diocese did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the letter.
Jenky defended the church’s policies and track record for dealing with abuse cases, saying credible claims have been settled while allegations unsupported by facts are rejected. He thinks measures put in place in recent years have made the church a safe environment for children.
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria has not allowed abusive priests to move from parish to parish, said Jenky, who also vowed not to be intimidated by “choreographed demonstrations or the abuse that is sometimes personally directed against me” by victims’ support groups.
The bishop questioned the motives of attorneys representing some victims and groups supporting them, saying, “Obviously (they) have a significant financial stake in trying to overturn our Diocesan policies.”
Jeff Jones, Peoria leader of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, responded Friday to a copy of the letter provided to the organization.
“It’s a sad day when the bishop has to use these kinds of tactics to make sure innocent victims receive no reparations. He will stop at nothing,” said Jones.
In his letter, Jenky also assures area Catholics that he will be a “prudent steward of the money you offer for the work of Christ” and warned that difficult days may lie ahead as the diocese faces the potential of more than a dozen abuse lawsuits.
A support group for those who say they were abused by the clergy blasted a letter Bishop Daniel Jenky planned to send out to the Diocese of Peoria this weekend, saying its contents are outrageous, sad and scary.
“It’s hard to know which of Jenky’s radical claims is more bogus — that journalists hate Catholicism or that the diocese handles clergy sex cases perfectly,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a statement.
SNAP received the letter dated Feb. 7-8 addressed to all “priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the diocese,” from a concerned Catholic. SNAP provided the Journal Star with the letter.
The bishop wrote, “Amid all the tensions of our nation’s culture wars and in the face of the media’s intense hatred for our Catholic faith, I am increasingly concerned that our church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law.”
The clergy support group retorted: “It’s possible that Jenky is attacking reporters just to intimidate them into soft-pedaling stories about church corruption and recklessness and deceit. Or it’s possible Jenky actually believes this outrageous claim. Either is sad and scary.”
The group pointed out that at least 18 current or former Peoria priests are admitted, proven or credibly accused predators.
“Is Jenky seriously claiming the church handled every one of those cases promptly, openly and honorably? That defies common sense and painful history,” Dorris said.
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