IL--Belleville priest sued for abuse for first time

Belleville priest sued for abuse for first time

Cleric is still head of a parish in Waterloo now

He sexually exploited a vulnerable counselee

And he admitted to her other violations of his vows

With his help, she was a new convert to Catholicism

He’s one of more than a dozen African priests in diocese

Victim is revealing her name and issuing a public statement

SNAP: “For the safety of parishioners & the public,” cleric should be suspended


Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will 
--disclose that a new abuse and cover up lawsuit is being filed against a Belleville Catholic priest and his church supervisors,

--provide his photo and work history and

--urge Belleville’s bishop to suspend the priest.

They will also

-- prod anyone who was hurt by priests – as kids, teens or adults - to speak up and get help, and

-- prod Catholic officials in Belleville to “come clean” with more information about predator priests – including five who were “outed” elsewhere last year - and aggressively seek out their victims.


TODAY, Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 1:00 p.m.


Outside the Belleville Catholic diocese headquarters (“chancery office”), 222 South Third St. in Belleville, IL


Three-four individuals who belong to a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and/or a Catholic reform group called Faithful of Southern Illinois (FOSIL)


------1) A new civil abuse and cover up lawsuit is being filed against a Nigerian priest who is still on the job at a church in Waterloo. The suit charges that Fr. Osang Idagbo (618 939 6426, 618 939 7217, [email protected]) sexually exploited a vulnerable parishioner who sought his counseling for three years (2013-2015). He also helped convince her to convert to Catholicism and divorce her husband.

Twice, Fr. Idagbo’s victim reported her abuse to Bishop Braxton and his top aide, Msgr. John McEvilly ([email protected]) but “the sexual contact continued” and “the diocese took no meaningful action to investigate or discipline” the priest, the suit charges. It also alleges that Fr. Idagbo “sexually abused and exploited other women before, during, and after the time” he sexually abused this woman and that the priest himself told her “about other women with whom he was engaged in sexual relationships, including one woman who made a report to the diocese at some time before the last incident of sexual contact with Plaintiff.”

Fr. Idagbo is Vincentian cleric from Nigeria, one of about a dozen African priests in the Belleville Diocese.

(This spring, one of them, Fr. Bernardine Nganzi, left his assignment after a child porn controversy.)

Fr. Idagbo was ordained in 2005 in Nigeria, came to Belleville in 2008 and initially lived for a month at Bishop Edward Braxton’s home. He was then sent to SS. Peter and Paul in Waterloo where he is now. His photo is on the parish website.

In Nigeria, he was reportedly a chaplain to a girls’ grammar school and a hostel for female college students. Fr. Idagbo’s official church biography is here:

The victim in this case, Laura Merleau-McGrady, is now in China and is represented by Chicago attorney Jessica Arbour (312 854 8091305 318 5444 cell, [email protected]).

Belleville diocesan staff can be reached at 618 277 8181. Other staff at SS. Peter and Paul include Fr. Sebastian Ukoh ([email protected]) the associate pastor, Douglas L. Boyer ([email protected]) and Thomas J. Helfrich ([email protected]) both deacons, Karen Seaborn ([email protected]), Angela Atkinson ([email protected]), Teresa Meyer ([email protected]), Cate Gross ([email protected]), the parish secretary. The parish has a school, headed by principal Lisa Buchheit ([email protected]). Her secretaries are Julie Doerr ([email protected]) and Jane Breisacher ([email protected]).

------2) SNAP and FOSIL are also urging Belleville church officials and members to “spread the word” about five predator priests who worked in the Belleville area whose records were released last year as part of a lawsuit settlement. Only one of the priests had been previously publicly exposed in this area as a credibly accused child molester. One lived in Belleville as recently as 2012. Another was there until 2009.

One of them spent seven decades as a priest in this area. From the 1940s until seven years ago, Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald worked in six states including assignments in at least three towns in Illinois towns and two in Missouri.

The five accused priests who worked in the Belleville diocese are: Fr. Thomas Meyer (worked in Belleville and Alton), Fr. Emil Twardochleb (worked in Belleville and Henry), Fr. Michael Charland (worked in Belleville, Sparta and Godfrey), Fr. Orville Munie worked in Belleville, Toluca, Mendota, Bethany and Campus) and Fr. Paul Kabat (worked in Belleville).

More details about each of the predators and their specific work histories in Missouri and Illinois (including dates, parishes and photos) is available at and/or

Each priest belonged or belongs to a Belleville-based religious order called the Oblates (1-888-330-6264[email protected]). It operates the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

SNAP and FOSIL believe it’s likely others who were hurt by these priests are “still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame.” The groups want Belleville Bishop Braxton to “use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements” to “aggressively seek out and help these wounded victims and beg them to call the police.”

The records were released as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit brought in Minnesota against the Oblates by a man who reports having been molested by Fr. Fitzgerald.

Fr. Reitmeier and Fr. Charland are alive. (The latter is a psychologist in the Twin Cities area.) The other five are deceased.


David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Anne Harter (618-277-7594), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])


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