IL--At least two priests at parish accused of abusing kids
Groups to hand leaflets to church-goers
At least two priests at parish accused of abusing kids
One victim, with pending lawsuit, is being publicly identified for 1st time
Concerned Catholics say Rockford Catholic officials mistreat victims & parishioners
Diocese keeps hiding its secret documents on credibly accused abusive priests, they say
Catholics will be urged to consider withholding donations until kids are better protected
As parishioners leave and enter a local church for mass, supporters of clergy abuse victims will disclose
---that two priests who worked at their parish are accused of molesting kids, and
---the identity of a previously-anonymous man who is suing one of those priests for abuse.
The group will also hand out fliers urging the church-goers to:
---demand that their church officials make public all of its secret files on all of its credibly accused priests,
---stop donating to the church until their bishop stops a) concealing child sex crimes, b) supporting and paying sex offender clerics, and c) callously mistreating victims of clergy sex crimes
Sunday, November 29 from 11am to noon.
Outside St Rita of Cascia Church, 750 W. Old Indian Trail in Aurora IL (on sidewalk near corner of Nantucket Road)
Three to four people who are members of two groups, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Chicagoland Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) or concerned Catholics
In September, a clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuit was filed against Rockford Catholic officials. That victim, who has been anonymous, is revealing his identity now for the first time and making a personal statement on a leaflet being given to parishioners.
He’s accusing Fr. John C. Holdren of repeatedly sexually abusing him as a boy at St. Rita of Cascia when he was seven and eight years old.
Members of two organizations are also alerting church-goers that another priest from St. Rita’s, Fr. James G. Gaynor, was accused of sex crimes at the parish by Ron Zaha in 2000. (Mr. Zaha has also never been identified publicly before.) The Rockford Diocese told Mr. Zaha that Gaynor died in 1991 of AIDS.
Church officials offered Mr. Zaha money in exchange for signing a release from holding them liable. Mr. Zaha rejected Rockford’s offer. Rockford officials continue to keep secret Fr. Gaynor’s file.
SNAP and VOTF say that the Rockford Diocese is still keeping secret all of its files on all accused priests in the diocese, including those of Fr. Mark Campobello who was convicted in a criminal court. Rockford Chancellor Ellen Lynch was the diocese's lead attorney when Bishop Thomas Doran was deemed in contempt of court for not releasing court-ordered documents in Fr. Campobello’s case. The diocese later settled with two victims for over $2 million without releasing Fr. Campobello’s file.
“Despite repeated pledges to be open and transparent since 2002, Rockford’s bishop and his staff continue to exhibit the same scandalous and secretive behavior that Catholic officials have engaged in for decades,” said Kate Bochte of SNAP.
Friends of the victim who is suing have confided in him they, too, were abused by Fr. Holdren. In September, church officials claimed Fr. Holdren was “unassigned” and no longer working as a priest. Meanwhile, Fr. Holdren insists he’s still a practicing priest and helps out at Our Lady of Mercy in Aurora, located between a high school and a public library.
Currently, Fr. Holdren lives unsupervised among unsuspecting families, SNAP says. Although he was arrested for a DUI, he has apparently never been investigated by police for sex crimes against children and is not on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry.
Parishioners, parents, and the public deserve to know the truth about accused predators in their community, neighborhood, or churches, the groups say. They maintain that the on-going secrecy of Rockford Catholic officials is proof the clergy abuse scandal continues today – with secrecy, child endangerment, and treating victims of childhood sexual abuse with contempt and callousness.
Because Rockford church staff are breaking their well-publicized promises of openness and transparency, the groups say Catholic laity must hold their leaders accountable. “The only effective way to do this is with their feet and pocketbooks,” said Stilling-Seehausen. “We urge parishioners to drop notes to the Rockford bishop and chancellor in collection baskets, in place of money, expressing support of clergy abuse victims and demanding accountability for all perpetrators and enablers still being paid by the diocese.”
The pending lawsuit against Fr. Holdren was filed by Rockford attorney Tim Frieberg (217-801-2733, [email protected]).