Springfield Catholic bishop challenged on abuse
He leaves at least two publicly accused molesters off his list
Victims want church to post ALL alleged offenders' names online
SNAP: More details are also needed to better protect the vulnerable
"The real solution," group insists, "is criminal prosecution & legislative reform"
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will disclose that six publicly accused priests were left off the list posted by the Diocese of Springfield, including two who worked in the Springfield diocese but have attracted little or no media or public attention before in central Illinois.
They will also call on local Catholic officials to
- post names of ALL accused priests on their diocesan website,
- include details like their work histories, whereabouts and photos, and
- join with victims in pushing for real legislative reform, like repealing Illinois' "archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations" so survivors can do what bishops will not do: expose child molesters in court.
Friday, Dec. 21 at 11:00 a.m.
On the sidewalk outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 524 E. Lawrence in Springfield IL
the Diocese of Springfield disclosed a list of 19 clergy
for whom it found allegations that they sexually abused minors "substantiated." While SNAP was grateful for the 10 names which had never before been publicly revealed, it was immediately apparent that 4 priests
who had been publicly accused were missing from the list: Father Kevin J. Downey, Father Richard Niebrugge, Father Louis Schlangen, and Father Stanislaus Yunker.
1) Since that time SNAP has identified two additional priests who have been publicly accused of child sexual abuse and are also missing from the diocesan list.
Fr. Meyer's presence in the Springfield diocese has attracted no discernible public attention before. SNAP fears he may have hurt central Illinois children.
The priest also worked in the Belleville diocese on 4 occasions
: St. Henry’s Seminary (1971-1972 and 1973-1977), King’s House of Retreats (1982-1983) and St. Henry’s Oblate Residence (2007-2012).
Fr. Henry Willenborg
is accused of
sexually abusing a high school girl and impregnating an adult parishioner who came to him for counseling. Later, he allegedly abandoned his son who died of cancer at age 22.
SNAP does not know where Fr. Willenborg is now, but believes he is still a priest.
Both clerics, along with Fr. Downey, who is also missing from the list, belong to Catholic religious orders who were given permission to work in the Springfield diocese by Springfield's bishops. For that reason, SNAP maintains that the current head of the diocese, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, can and must include religious order clerics on his list of accused wrongdoers, as several other bishops have done. These men may have hurt central Illinois kids and may still work, visit or live in central Illinois.
2) SNAP is extremely disappointed that Bishop Paprocki has “taken so little action on abuse in his own diocese.” The group wants him to reveal more about all the names on his list and aggressively reach out to victims, witnesses and whistle blowers so that "kids can be protected and wrongdoers can be exposed, prosecuted, fired, demoted or disciplined.”
The group is also highly critical of the bishop's claim
, made earlier this week, that a decades-long cover-up of child sex crimes was done with a "virtuous intent." SNAP says this is just plain wrong. Cover ups are selfish, not "virtuous." Continuing to hide abusive priests at this juncture remains both self serving and irresponsible.
3) SNAP is also calling on state lawmakers to fix archaic, predator-friendly laws like the statute of limitations. If these arbitrary, unfair time limits were eliminated going forward, and "civil windows" were opened to allow those who are past the deadlines to have their day in court, bishops would be far less able to hide child molesters, SNAP says.
California, Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota have done already opened civil windows. However, the US Territory of Guam has set the gold standard by making their civil window permanent
. These changes make kids safer, SNAP believes, by enabling our time-tested justice system to determine who's "credibly accused," not "self-serving bishops and their hand-picked allies."
According to BishopAccountability.org
, there are 13 proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting Springfield area clerics, not including Frs Meyer and Willenborg.
The Springfield diocese includes much of central Illinois and covers 28 counties.
This is a clarification regarding the SNAP press event held in Springfield, MO on December 21. It is important to note that there have been two priests in the Springfield Diocese with the same name.
Fr. Thomas G. Meyer is a now deceased publicly accused abusive cleric and was a religious order cleric who worked in Alton.
Fr. Thomas C. Meyer is alive, is NOT accused of abuse, is a diocesan cleric who now works in Jacksonville IL.
We urge the public and the news media to make this distinction clear and apologize for any potential confusion.