Why we don’t trust church investigations
He’s accused of molesting a teen, impregnating an adult parishioner twice, suggested an abortion, fathering a child and ignoring that child.
Catholic officials say they’re investigating all of this alleged wrongdoing by Fr. Henry Willenborg.
Here’s the rub: they’ve been doing so since 2009.
As best we can tell, there’s been no conclusion or announcement or even an update.
It’s been almost seven years.
No one knows where Fr. Willenborg is now (except, of course, his church supervisors and colleagues). No one knows whether church officials have deemed him innocent or guilty of these serious charges. No one knows if church officials have
Recently, Fr. William C. Graham of the Duluth diocese questioned why our SNAP leader there, Verne Wagner, is so skeptical about so-called church abuse “investigations.”
The Willenborg case is Exhibit A for our skepticism.
It bears noting that even if the St. Louis-based Franciscan province, which pays and supervises Fr. Willenborg directly, refuses to act responsibly, there’s nothing to prevent bishops who have let Fr. Willenborg work in their dioceses launch investigations. He’s spent time in Superior Wisconsin and Springfield Illinois. Wouldn’t it be encouraging to hear that Superior Bishop-elect James Powers or Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki say “The Franciscans are acting recklessly. Since they’re evidently not investigating, or doing so secretively, I’m starting my own investigation.”
And let us take this opportunity to again praise Pat Bond. She’s one of the adults who was sexually exploited by Fr. Willenborg. He was the biological father to Nathan, Pat’s dear son who tragically passed away in 2009, at the age of 22, from a brain tumor, after a life of being ignored and rebuffed by his callous and irresponsible dad and his dad’s callous and irresponsible Catholic colleagues and supervisors. Thankfully, Nate got tons of love from his brave, kind and steadfast mom and sisters.
We are very grateful that Pat was strong, courageous and compassionate enough to expose Fr. Willenborg and his Franciscan enablers. We are confident that her courage has kept Fr. Willenborg from sexually victimizing others. But parishioners and the public will only be truly safe from this predators when Catholic officials act as bravely as Pat has acted and use their vast resources to warn others about him.
SNAP will be Representing Clergy Abuse Survivors in Rome!
We are taking the fight to Rome and are standing up for all survivors on a world stage! From February 19-25, Board President Tim Lennon, Seattle Leader Mary Dispenza, Los Angeles Leader Esther Hatfield Miller and Austin Leader Carol Midboe will be traveling to Rome for Pope Francis' Papal Abuse Summit.
If you are a member of the media and looking to get in touch with these survivors while in Rome, click here for our media advisory and contact information. If you are interested in connecting with a survivor in the US from your area of coverage, please contact one of the SNAP leaders in the US listed below:
- East Coast/DC: Becky Ianni (SNAPvirginia@cox.net, 703-801-6044)
- Midwest/Chicago: Zach Hiner (email@example.com, 517-974-9009)
- Midwest/St. Louis: David Clohessy (firstname.lastname@example.org, 314314-566-9790)
- West Coast / San Francisco: Melanie Sakoda (email@example.com, 925-708-6175)
If you are looking to help spread the word about the importance of this summit and for survivors to be heard, add your voice to the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PBC2019. Be sure to follow SNAP on twitter and Facebook and share our posts, add your comments, and let the world know that we are watching!Learn More