Abuse victims blast Belleville Catholic officials
Abuse victims blast Belleville Catholic officials
Bishop must add 10 clerics to his “accused” list, group says
One, never ‘outed’ here before, worked in the Vatican press office
Victims remind IL Catholics: “500 alleged predators are still hidden”
Church should explain why 80% of abuse reports are ‘unsubstantiated’
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and advocates will publicly disclose - for the first time - that an accused former Vatican press officer/priest also worked in the Belleville diocese but has never attracted attention here before. They will also prod Belleville’s bishop to
--add ten more names to his “credibly accused” clergy list, and
--explain why four of five abuse reports are deemed “unsubstantiated” by church staff.
Finally, they’ll urge anyone in Illinois who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups to contact the attorney general who is conducting a statewide investigation into this crisis.
Wednesday, January 23 at 2:30 p.m.
Outside the Belleville IL Catholic diocese headquarters (“chancery office”), 222 South Third
Four-six Belleville Catholics and abuse victims, including a Missouri man who is the St. Louis volunteer leader of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (and the organization's former long time executive director) and an Illinois woman who heads the Faithful of Southern Illinois
1) Until last week, Fr. Larry Lorenzoni’s name had never surfaced publicly in Illinois before as an alleged abuser. In October, a report on abusive clerics in California disclosed that Lorenzoni, who reportedly worked at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, was accused of sexually abusing at least two kids. He is included in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ list of priests accused of sexual misconduct involving minors.
Lorenzoni’s whereabouts in recent years are largely unknown but he worked at the Vatican Press Office in Rome for four years in the 1990s. Lorenzoni died in 2017.
2) Under pressure from former Illinois AG Lisa Madigan, Belleville's Bishop Edward Braxton has quietly posted names of 17 "credibly accused" abusive clerics on his diocesan website.
However, his list omits at least 10 other publicly accused clerics who worked in Belleville, Alton, Henry, Sparta, Godfrey, Toluca, Mendota, Bethany, Campus and Carbondale.
---Fr. Chester E. Gaiter, who worked in East St. Louis and whose name was released last month by Jesuit officials on their list of “credibly accused” clerics
---Fr. Kenneth J. Roberts, who has had his faculties revoked and is accused of molesting at least seven kids, including one Belleville area boy
---Fr. Fred Lenczycki, originally of Joliet IL, who has been accused of molesting at least two dozen kids and was the first US priest to be deemed a "sexually violent predator" by secular professionals
---Fr. Thomas Gregory Meyer, Fr. Emil Twardochleb, Fr. Michael Charland, Fr. Orville Munie, Fr. Paul Kabat and Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald. They belong(ed) to a Belleville-based order called the Oblates (1-888-330-6264, email@example.com) which runs the Shine of Our Lady of the Snows. Each of them was, according to the church's own records, "credibly accused" of assaulting kids in Minnesota, but they also spent time in southern Illinois and remain essentially "under the radar" here.
One (Fr. Fitzgerald) was a priest in this area for seven decades, and lived in Belleville as recently as 2009). Another (Fr. Meyer) was here until 2012.
3) Finally, Braxton omits the work histories, photos and whereabouts of every accused priest or deacon. Where these priests are now is important because nearby parents and prospective employers should be warned about their presence. That is the single best step the bishop could take to prevent more horrific crimes against more innocent kids.
Where they worked and how they looked in the past is important because that information helps victims identify them. It usually takes decades for victims to come forward. They might only recall that everyone called him "Father Mac," not knowing whether he was Fr. Mack Smith or Fr. McGillicuty or Fr. MacArthur. Even parents who are long-time parishioners may have trouble recalling a priest who worked in their church just a few months before mysteriously vanishing with little or no explanation from the diocesan hierarchy.
Every time an abuser remains hidden, kids remain at risk, SNAP maintains. Disclosing the truth is the best way to safeguard the vulnerable, heal the wounded and help the church move forward, the group says.
Finally, SNAP is begging anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes or cover ups in southern Illinois to contact Illinois’ attorney general who is investigating all of the state’s dioceses.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.