The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, November 30, 2009
Priest’s son passes; Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)
In the short time I was privileged to know Nate, it was clear that he was a special young man – wounded yet filled with kindness. Despite his pain – both physical and emotional – there wasn’t an ounce of bitterness in him. Fully aware of his deteriorating health, he talked of his plight openly but never complained. I’m sure in some ways, he was a typical young man. I, however, saw an extraordinarily mature, sensitive and caring young man whose compassion for others shone like a fresh full moon on a cloudless night.
We call on the Catholic hierarchy to honor its commitment to pay for Nate’s funeral. We also hope church officials will provide counseling to his family and will permanently remove Fr. Willenborg from ministry while actively reaching out to others whom he hurt, especially those who are suffering, as Nate and his family did for so many years, in isolation and silence.
Nate broke his silence in large part because he wanted to stop Willenborg and his supervisors from causing more pain and because he wanted those who were already hurt to know they weren’t alone. We share his wishes and again urge anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Willenborg’s crimes and misdeeds to come forward, get help, call police, protect others and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)
Man Who Spoke About His Father Being a Priest Dies at 22
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN - Published: November 29, 2009
Nathan Halbach, who decided to speak out as he was terminally ill with brain cancer about how it felt to grow up knowing that his absentee father was a Roman Catholic priest, died at home in Missouri on Friday. He was 22.
Mr. Halbach said he knew there were other children like him who had been fathered and abandoned by priests, but it was such a taboo to talk about it that he wanted to give them a voice.
In an interview this summer at his home in O’Fallon, he said of his father: “He and my mom had a relationship and they were in love at the time, and they had me out of that relationship, but I never received any of that love at an age I could remember it. I have so few memories of him, I’ve met him so few times, it’s just not been what I had hoped for.”
His father, the Rev. Henry Willenborg, was suspended from his position as a parish priest in Ashland, Wis., after an article in The New York Times in October revealed his liaisons with women. He was removed by Bishop Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Superior, who said he acted after reading that the priest had urged Mr. Halbach’s mother to have an abortion, and that another woman who said she had a relationship with Father Willenborg said she was a minor at the time.
Father Willenborg, a Franciscan priest, could not be reached for comment. He said in September that he knew his son was terminally ill.
The relationship between Pat Bond, Mr. Halbach’s mother, and Father Willenborg began 26 years ago. The Franciscans sent Father Willenborg to a center that treated priests for sexual and alcohol addictions and returned him to ministry.
The Franciscans gave Mr. Halbach’s mother child support in an agreement that required her to keep silent. She and Mr. Halbach decided to break the confidentiality after the Franciscans declined to reimburse them for some expenses for a trip to New York City for cancer treatment.
The Franciscans have said they covered more than they were required to by law. They have said they will cover the expenses for Mr. Halbach’s funeral.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests