Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Clergy sex victims push new bishop for action

Clergy sex victims push new bishop for action

Alleged church probe into predator enters 8th month

But there’s no evidence that anything’s happening, says SNAP

Self help group knows of no one who’s been contacted about priest

Cleric impregnated vulnerable young woman & ignored their child

Suspended last fall, he is also accused of molesting a Quincy teenager

SNAP to Springfield’s new bishop: “Citizens, Catholics & victims deserve answers”

At “bare minimum,” organization says church should disclose priest’s whereabouts

Victims also want Paprocki to post on his website the names of all child molesting clerics

One week after he was installed as the new head of the Springfield Catholic diocese, clergy sex abuse victims are urging Bishop Thomas Paprocki to “take two immediate steps to better protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”

Leaders of a Chicago-based support group are writing to Paprocki, prodding him to
-- aggressively reach out to anyone with information about a predator priest, Fr. Henry V. Willenborg, who was ousted last fall, and
-- post all the names of central Illinois child molesting clerics on his diocesan website.

At sidewalk news conferences in St. Louis and Quincy, the group is also begging anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes (especially Willenborg) to call police, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing.

Last October, Willenborg was suspended from active ministry because of allegations that he molested a Quincy teenager years ago. At the time of his ouster, Willenborg was working at Our Lady of the Lake church in Ashland, Wisconsin (in the Superior Diocese). The move was prompted, in part, by a long, page one New York Times story which disclosed that Willenborg seduced a young devout Illinois Catholic woman, impregnated her twice, urged her to have an abortion once, then for more than two decades essentially ignored the boy he fathered. In the same article, another woman said that Willenborg had sexually abused her when she was in high school in Quincy.

Despite immediate pledges by the church to investigate the accusations, SNAP sees no evidence that any such investigation has taken place or is taking place. SNAP wants Paprocki to use his considerable resources – church bulletins and websites and newspaper – to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered any crimes by the cleric. The group also wants Paprocki to tell his flock where Willenborg is now living.

Since October, all of the relevant church officials have been silent about Willenborg’s whereabouts, status, and their supposed investigation. These include bishops in Wisconsin and Illinois, and Willenborg’s direct supervisors in a St. Louis-based religious order called the Franciscans. SNAP says it doesn’t know of a single person who’s been contacted by church officials about Willenborg, and hasn’t seen a single sign of any public outreach, like news releases, ads, letters to current or former church members or employees.

Such silence and inaction violates the US church abuse policy, which calls for sensitivity toward victims and openness in clergy sex cases, SNAP believes.

The SNAP events today are taking place outside the Franciscans’ headquarter in St. Louis and a college in Quincy where Willenborg worked. The group’s letter to Paprocki is being sent by fax and email. SNAP is sending a similar letter to Bishop Peter Christensen of the Superior Diocese, where Willenborg last worked.

SNAP also wants Paprocki to do what 24 other bishops have done, and post on his website, for the sake of public safety, the names, whereabouts and priestly status of child molesting clerics who are or have been in central Illinois.

According to a Boston-based independent research group called, there are eight publicly accused Springfield diocesan child molesting clerics. One of them, Fr. Alvin Campbell, was in the news across the world last month because newly-released church records showed that Pope Benedict refused to defrock him even after Campbell was convicted of child sexual abuse.)

SNAP notes that the actual number of Springfield area pedophile priests is likely much higher because lists only those clerics against whom allegations have been lodge in the public domain – in civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution or news accounts.

In 2002, Baltimore became the first US diocese to disclose names. A good current example is the Philadelphia archdiocese: Here is a list of all the dioceses that have disclosed names:

The Chicago archdiocese, where Paprocki is from, lists predators’ names on its website.

No comments: