Belleville Priest Pleads Guilty, SNAP Responds
Another Belleville area priest has pled guilty to child sex crimes but this matter can’t be considered over. Bishop Edward Braxton and his staff must use their resources to find out whether the cleric hurt children and should be charged with more crimes. And the guilty priest must be kept away from children for as long as possible, so we urge the judge to put the safety of children first when it’s time for sentencing.
Fr. Gerald R. Hechenberger of Mascoutah’s Holy Childhood Catholic Church and school, has admitted to child porn distribution and meth possession. The question is: What will his boss do to determine whether’s he’s done other wrongdoing not yet discovered by law enforcement and if so, are there victims of his who are suffering in shame, silence and self-blame?
It’s not hard, expensive or controversial to seek these answers. All it takes are short announcements on church websites, in parish bulletins and from pulpits: “If you saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Hechenberger, please call independent sources of help like police, prosecutors, therapists or support groups immediately.”
We hope every victim, witness or whistleblower with suspicions or knowledge of crimes by Fr. Hechenberger or cover ups by his colleagues or superiors will speak up now.
And we hope the judge will give him the harshest possible sentence so kids will be safe from him for as long as the law permits.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)