Group protests Braxton's Africa trip, kitchen remodel, questions status of priests

News-DemocratAugust 5, 2013 

Bishop Edward K. Braxton.


— The cost of a kitchen renovation for Bishop Edward Braxton, questions about his recent trip to Africa and worry that priests suspected of molesting children aren't being monitored were the subjects of a small rally Monday outside the Diocese of Belleville's chancery office.

Seven members of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests demonstrated with small signs on the street corner opposite St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

A prime concern, said David Clohessy, a director of SNAP, is the organization's belief that six or seven Belleville Diocese priests removed from ministry in the early- to mid-90s and still on the diocesan payroll might molest children. None of these priests has been accused of any crime in a criminal court.

"They say to these priests, 'You're too dangerous to be in our parishes, but I don't care who you hang out with, or where you live,'" Clohessy said.

Braxton could not be reached for comment. The diocese's spokesman, Monsignor John Myler, did not immediately respond to a request.

Clohessy said he fears that the priests, who are among about a dozen removed by a diocese committee made up of laymen and clergy, may still offend even though some are in their 70s or 80s. Only two of these priests, who totaled about a dozen, have been removed from the priesthood, a process that can be carried out only by a pope.

"There is absolutely no certain age that a pedophile stops being a pedophile," Clohessy said. His organization, in a written statement, urged Braxton to set up a monitoring system to keep track of priests removed from ministry.

"If a priest has fallen in love with a woman, he's kicked out of the priesthood," said Lena Woltering, a member of SNAP. "Why can't they be removed when they have molested a child?"

Questions also came up concerning construction at the bishop's official residence at 925 Centreville Ave. in Belleville. Various construction firm pickup trucks have been observed there in the last few months.

Total estimated cost of a renovation is often listed on a building permit. However, a request to examine any permit for the bishop's residence was turned down on Monday. A city employee required that a Freedom of Information Act form be filled out and, after that was received, said it would take three to five working days for a supervisor of the city Health and Housing Department to decide that such a public document can be examined by a member of the public.

The Daily Times of Nigeria reported last month that Braxton visited a Catholic church in the Nigerian river port city of Onitsha. Braxton, the newspaper reported, urged a group of newly-ordained priests to serve their God with "passion and undivided commitment." Braxton has previously traveled to Nigeria where he arranged for several African Catholic priests to return to the Diocese of Belleville to complete temporary clergy assignments.

"We respectfully but firmly urge you to reveal who paid for your trips overseas. We urge you to halt your new kitchen renovation and be honest about who paid for it," SNAP stated in a news release issued Monday.

"For the safety of kids, we urge you to stay home, (monitor) predator priests...(and) reveal how many boys and girls have been sexually assaulted by Belleville priests, and how much is being paid for their therapy," the release stated.

Contact reporter George and 239-2625.

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