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Published: Saturday, June 3, 2006

Editorial: Belleville Diocese Notified of Priest's Arrival

In April, when we reported that an Oblate priest who is an admitted child abuser was living in Belleville, diocesan leaders acted shocked and appalled to learn of it.

A spokesman for Wilton Gregory, bishop in Belleville in 2002 when the Rev. Real "Ray" Bourque's arrived in Belleville, said Gregory "would never have agreed to his assignment or residency in Belleville."

Monsignor James Margason, the vicar general at the time, said he would have opposed Bourque's transfer. "They do have to live somewhere, but there have been places established where priests with this kind of history can live under strict supervision," he said.

Turns out the Oblates notified Gregory and Margason in July 2002 before they sent Bourque here. This week the current diocese leadership produced two letters from the Oblates to Gregory, one of which was copied to Margason. The Oblates didn't sneak Bourque in during the dark of night. Margason and Gregory accepted him in.

How disappointing. The secrecy and cover-ups related to sexual abuse by priests in the Belleville Diocese were supposed to be over.

It's also disappointing that the local Oblates refuse to cooperate with the Belleville Police Department. They said all the right things about supervising Bourque. But when two Belleville Police detectives showed up at their door this week, they told them to call their headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Catholic Church wants people to believe that they are being open and honest and are doing everything possible to protect people from priests who have abused children. Unfortunately, some church leaders keep giving us reasons to believe just the opposite.



Published: Friday, May 26, 2006

Some lessons are being taught by local Catholic leaders about morals, leadership and tolerance through the case of the Rev. Real Bourque.

Our interpretation of these lessons is that the church has yet to learn the lessons of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Here we sit in a community that saw 15 priests defrocked. Our experiences with victimization, denial and disregarded responsibilities helped forge the national zero-tolerance policy adopted in 2002 under the leadership of our former Bishop Wilton Gregory.

Yet is all this collective suffering, soul searching and wisdom brought to bear on the Bourque case? No.

Bourque admits he is a child molester. But because he is a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, not a parish priest, he is not covered by the sex abuse policy.

He is the responsibility of the oblates. Their response to his pedophilia is to have Bourque sign himself out of the retirement home.

A sign-out sheet? The community's protection is the "honor system"?

Gregory said Bourque landed here in 2002 without his knowledge. Gregory said had he known of Bourque's past he never would have allowed Bourque in the diocese.

So how does current Bishop Edward Braxton respond? After the vicar general was sent to meet with the oblates' leader, Braxton concluded his obligations under the zero-tolerance policy were fulfilled and there was no more he was allowed to do under canon law.


What about Braxton's power behind the scenes as well as the potential of his vocal opposition to Bourque's presence --- his bully pulpit? He has the power, so why not the will?

If Braxton believes Bourque needs the opportunity to heal and be redeemed, why here in a setting where the oblates' idea of monitoring is a sign-out sheet?

If Bourque at age 78 and after treatment a decade ago is no longer a threat to children, why keep him in a loose setting watched by people inexperienced in handling child molesters?

The bishop's crosier is a shepherd's staff. Shepherds protect their flocks from the wolves.

Bishop Braxton has the power and moral responsibility, not only to the church but to this community. Bourque needs to go --- now, and to an appropriate facility.