Rudofski was 8 years old when the Rev. James Burnett fondled him while the boy was making his first confession, documents indicate. Court records show he immediately told his mother that the priest had forced him to pull down his pants in the confessional, but she chastised him for making up an outlandish story on such an important day.

After his mother's reprimand, Rudofski said he buried the memory and went on to have a normal childhood. He says it wasn't until adulthood, when he struggled with nightmares about a caped man chasing him, that he confronted the past.

He sued the diocese in 2007.

In an October 2006 affidavit for her son's lawsuit, Patricia Rudofski said she scolded him for lying because she trusted her pastor. She said she forgot about her son's allegation until years later, when another alleged victim accused Burnett of abuse.

"I was feeling horrible thinking about my son, thinking that I'm the one who told him to do whatever the priest said," she said in the affidavit. "I mean, I'm feeling horrible, and I just — it was like a flashback. ... Oh my God, he told me."

David Rudofski, who received a personal apology from former Bishop Peter Sartain in 2010, said he hopes the newly released files will help his mother heal, as well.

"I've told her many, many times that I don't blame her for what happened," he said. "Maybe when she sees these files released and sees how it can help people, she will be able to move forward."

Burnett, 70, did not return a phone message for comment.

Rudofski eventually settled for $600,000 and access to 16 priests' personnel files.

For the diocese, "it's not about doing the right thing. It's about protecting the diocese," said his attorney, Terrence M. Johnson. Getting records "was the worst, most abusive process of discovery as a lawyer I've ever seen."

After a series of courtroom skirmishes, Rudofski appeared to win a moral war that many thought was unwinnable.

"He is a hero for our movement," said Blaine, the SNAP president. "He deserves a great deal of gratitude because his courage in speaking up and holding his ground will make children safer in the Joliet Diocese. He's given the entire diocese a gift, even if they don't realize it."