Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has led to a painful reckoning the world over. Some of the most chilling allegations against members of the clergy come from children. Rather than shine a light on priests who take advantage of the community’s trust, these allegations have been ignored or covered up by church officials. Without accountability for the clergy, we may never know the full extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Sexual abuse in the Diocese of Belleville has brought this international scandal too close to home. While it’s hard to imagine something so painful happening in our own backyard, credible allegations against Belleville priests have led many victims to come forward with their own stories. There is no single way to pursue justice against predatory clergy members, but taking legal action is one of the most empowering. Civil cases around the country have helped document sexual abuse within the church and bring a sense of closure to survivors.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to seeking justice for people abused by officials in the Belleville Diocese. Contact our office for a free and confidential review of your legal rights and options.
Abuse in the Diocese of Belleville
22 priests in the Diocese of Belleville have been accused of sexual abuse, but some believe this to be the tip of the iceberg. As many as 400 Illinois priests were named in the report, and as more survivors come forward, the list will continue to grow. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says the Diocese of Belleville has continued to ignore the crimes of at least 10 members of clergy. The group aims to publicize the names of the accused to prevent further abuse from occurring.
A database of the allegations against Diocese of Belleville priests catalogs their crimes. Some have been formally charged, while others have been removed from their posts. The details of the alleged abuse can be difficult to read, but they represent only a fraction of an untold number of incidents. They say justice dies in the dark. These lists, reports and databases shine light on crimes the church would prefer to ignore.
|Name:||Date of Ordination:||Action Taken:||Current Status:|
|Calhoun, Jame R||1955||Permanently removed from ministry 3/1993; Believed to have abused several youths; Claimed Calhoun was part of a homosexual ring of abusive priests||Deceased 5/26/1996|
|Chlopecki, Robert||1974||Early 1980s multiple complaints of sexual actis with boys in early 1980s; Suspended from active ministry 3/1993; Administrative leave as of 1/24/2009||Sued|
|Crook, David G||1981||On leave 3/1993; Permanently removed from active ministry 1/1995 for sexual misconduct with a teenager||Accused|
|Friedman, Daniel L||1972||Accused of sexual advances towards boy at summer camp in 1986; 1994 Removed from services; Reinstated to parish but not camp||Still active as of 1/2009|
|Hechenberger, Gerald R||1996||Arrested 1/08/2018; Charged with possession and dissemination of child pornography and possession of methamphetamine; 2004 pled guilty to trespassing at a truck stop "holding his pants in his hand and with no shirt on";||Trial supposed to be 1/18/2019|
|Kastner, Edwin G.||1951||Removed 9/1993 allegation involvement in sexual misconduct with male youth about 20 years prior; Permanently removed from active priesthood 6/1994||Deceased 5/1/2012|
|Kownacki, Raymond F.||1960||Accused of past abuse and rape of a teenage girl over several years resulting in a pregnancy which ended in a miscarriage; Permanently removed 11/1995; laicized 1/11/2013||Laicized|
|Kreher, Albert E. "Gene"||1965||1997 allegations that kreher had sexually abused a boy for one and a helf years in early 1980s; Admitted to regularly sleeping with the boy but denied abuse; Continued to be the head of Boy Scouts after writing a letter of apology; Removed after letter became public in 2016||Accused|
|Linnemann, Eugene G||1980||Removed 5/1993 from duties as pastor; permanently removed from active ministry 1/1995 for sexual abuse of a minor||Deceased 3/1/2011|
|MacPherson, Walter E||1955||Removed 2/1994 as pstor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Washington Park after allegations of sexual misconduct with a boy in his early teens; Permanently removed from active ministry; Retired||Deceased 7/16/2011|
|Peterson, Louis P||1974||Molesting a teenage boy between 1992 - 1994; Voluntarily stepped down 1/1994 during investigation; Permanently removed in 11/1995 from active ministry; Administrative leave/retired 1/24/2009||Accused|
|Ratermann, Jerome B.||1957||Accused of abusing youth in 1960s while principal of a Catholic High School; Suspended in 3/1993 from pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church and permanently barred from ministry by review board; Administrative Leave/ Retired||Settled 3/2012|
|Rensing, William F||1955||Removed 10/2002 on recommendation of Review Board after accustion that he abused a minor 30 years prior||Deceased 3/13/2017|
|Ruppert, E Alan||1978||Allegations of engaging in sexual misconduct with a minor in 1990; Administrative leave/retired 1/24/2009||Accused|
|Schoenhofen, Roger||1966||Sexually abused a student at St. Henry's Seminary; Still active priest in 2008 in Afton, IL||Deceased 2/2009|
|Schwaegel, Joseph R||1965||Abuse of an 8 year old bly in 1973; Refiled as a federal case; Settled 2/2003; Admitted to being a "sex addict"; Administrative Leave/Retired; 7/19/2019 claims abuse 1987-1989 of a boy, beginning when the boy was 6 years old at Cathedral Grade School||Deceased 7/13/2016|
|Sebescak, Gary||1994||Allegedly sexually abused a minor six years previously while at St. Meinrad Catholic Seminary; No criminal charges filed||Accused|
|Theis, Francis||1980||Deacon; Removed 1993; 1995 named as abuser of a youth in early 1980s||Deceased 7/13/2010|
|Vonnahmen, Robert J||1956||Accused of abusing boys and girls spanning most of his career; Investigated in 1983/1984 but no action taken; Removed from active ministry in 1993; Laicized 4/2007||Deceased 5/8/2016|
A History of Abuse
Allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests have been made for decades, but investigations into the allegations weren’t publicized until the late 1980s. As the first high profile court cases gained media coverage, more and more survivors came forward with their stories. In many cases, adults who were abused as children recounted decades of abuse at the hands of their trusted faith leaders.
In response to the allegations, the Catholic Church opted to shuffle priests around from diocese to diocese rather than dismiss them from their positions. Rather than hold predatory priests responsible for their crimes, church leaders chose to expose new populations to members of these abusive clergy members. While John Paul II and Benedict XVI have apologized on behalf of the church, their words have provided little solace to the victims who endured such horrific abuse.
Why Church Abuse is Covered Up?
Though the abuse allegations have become more widely known, a lack of transparency about the accused remains. Rather than address sexual abuse as a criminal matter, church leaders have repeatedly encouraged clergy to report such behavior internally. While some may see this kind of accountability as a step in the right direction, it’s a far cry from justice. Given the church’s history of covering up abuse and relocating predatory priests, internal investigations are small comfort for survivors of abuse.
The Catholic Church has earned a bad reputation for their role in this crisis, and additional media coverage of sexual abuse only adds to the church’s publicity problem. Fearing litigation and even more negative attention, the church has doubled down on their efforts to hide abuse allegations. Too often, leaders opt to protect clergy members at the expense of the victims.
The Impact of Abuse on Victims
Whether they fell prey to ongoing mistreatment or single instances of abuse, victims often bear the emotional weight of their experiences for the rest of their lives. Many survivors were children at the time of their abuse. Predators often select the innocent and naive to victimize, as they’re less likely to stand up for themselves or report abuse to authorities. Make no mistake about it: the Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children took advantage of their position within the community, preying upon the most vulnerable members of their church.
Some sexual abuse survivors receive therapy to process their experiences, but many never address their abuse out loud. Fear of ostracization prevents many victims from speaking up, while many hope to simply forget the whole thing ever happened. While this impulse is understandable, it’s how so many predators have escaped consequences for their actions.
Victims of sexual abuse may develop depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even experience a loss of faith. No amount of prosecution can undo this damage, though seeking legal action against an abuser can help provide closure for some victims. In most cases, though, survivors will never see their abusers brought to justice.
Justice for Victims of Belleville Diocese Sexual Abuse Via Civil Lawsuits
Media coverage about the Catholic Church’s abuse problem has shone a light on the crisis at large. While it’s true that the increased attention has made it more difficult for some priests to take advantage of their positions, it has not stopped the abuse altogether. An audit of the church’s child-protection policies has found shortcomings and outright non-compliance in spite of the negative media attention, proving that there is indeed more work to be done.
Awareness of abuse is just the beginning. Until the Catholic Church prioritizes the health and safety of its members over the freedom of their clergy, abuse will likely continue. We can only hope that increased scrutiny will lead to a culture of transparency within the church.
Sex Abuse Attorneys Committed to Standing With Victims
Waiting for the Catholic Church to police itself may be a fruitless endeavor, but survivors of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Belleville have other options. Many have chosen to pursue their abusers in civil court via lawsuits against the Belleville, IL Diocese. Taking on the Catholic Church in a legal battle warrants a legal team both sensitive and fierce. If you’ve suffered abuse at the hands of a priest in the Diocese of Belleville, our firm can help. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced, discreet and above all else, respectful Belleville Diocese sexual abuse lawyer today.