Canonical and court documents have come to light from 2003 and 2005 that cast a negative light on the ministry of Priest Joseph Illo during his time in the Stockton, Calif., diocese — including a court ruling that he inflicted “intentional emotional distress” on an 11-year-old girl — have further enraged parents at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea School who have sought the priest’s removal as Star of Sea Parish administrator, according to news stories on KGO Radio and in the National Catholic Reporter and the San Francisco Examiner.
“We do not want Father Illo around children or in our community,” said Christy Brooks, a Star of the Sea parent. “The details of this past lawsuit are deplorable. There is no one, who after reading this lawsuit, would want to have their children near Father Illo. Archbishop Cordileone should remove him immediately from our school and parish. The safety and well-being of our children must be paramount.”
“We believe Archbishop Cordileone was aware of this verdict against Ft. Illo for intentional infliction of emotional distress on a child and still knowingly placed him in our community with foresight and knowledge of his history. That is shocking and unforgivable,” Brooks added. She and a group of parents from Star of the Sea have written and phoned the Archbishop demanding Illo’s removal.
The facts of the 2005 lawsuit against the priest, Father Illo, which required him to pay $14,000 for therapy for the young girl he traumatized, are as follows:
An 11-year-old girl came to Father Joseph Illo in confidence to report an incident of sexual abuse by one of the priests in Illo’s parish in Modesto.
Upon listening to the child’s report of abuse, Father Illo responded by yelling at the child, calling her a liar and calling the character of the child’s mother into question.
Father Illo then invited the offending priest into his office, where the two of them further confronted the child.
It was only after Father Illo invited his secretary in the room and she found the child in a hysterical state that she was removed and the mother was called.
Father Illo has a sworn duty to immediately report all allegations of abuse to the police.
As part of the case, church documents detailing an internal canonical investigation were subpoenaed. This report raises questions about Father Illo’s leadership and referring to his personality as being “dictatorial, manipulative and insensitive.” Another report for the court in Modesto said Father Illo had “a Jekyll and Hyde” personality. The canonical report recommended counseling for Father Illo.
Controversy has dogged Father Joseph Illo since he was appointed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to Star of the Sea Parish and School in late 2014. After taking charge of the San Francisco parish he banned altar girls, saying only boys can be altar servers. The move sparked criticism along with his statements to parents that he planned on replacing the school’s teachers with nuns from Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist order, the same nuns that walked out on students at Marin Catholic High School last week to protest an event to prevent bullying of LGBT youth.
The Star of the Sea parents have contacted Archbishop Cordileone and his staff by mail and phone and have “respectfully demanded that Father Illo be immediately and completely removed from his involvement at Star of the Sea,” according to the Star of the Sea parents group.
Just earlier this month, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese resigned after a canonical review of Finn to determine if he violated church law by failing to report suspected child sexual abuse in connection to former priest in that diocese. Many parents are wondering if the same fate will befall Archbishop Cordileone since he placed Father Illo at Star of the Sea school with the knowledge that Father Illo had a history of emotional abuse of children.
Prominent Catholic leaders have written Pope Francis and took out a full page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle requesting the Pontiff remove Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for “fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”