Metro-East News

Belleville Diocese priest targeted in sex scandal allegations

Anne Harter and Dave Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, talk to the media on Tuesday afternoon outside the Chancery office in Belleville.
Anne Harter and Dave Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, talk to the media on Tuesday afternoon outside the Chancery office in Belleville. znizami@bnd.com

A group that supports victims of sexual abuse by clergy demonstrated Tuesday outside the chancery for the Diocese of Belleville to draw attention to allegations that a priest assigned here from Africa used his position as a spiritual counselor to manipulate a woman into sexual contact for over a period of a year.

“There cannot be genuine consent between a parishioner and a priest,” said Dave Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, in referring to lawsuit. “It’s just like there cannot be genuine consent between a doctor and a patient.”

The suit has not yet been officially filed. A draft of the lawsuit was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court and does not specifically allege criminal behavior.

A lawsuit draft alleges that the priest engaged in a sexual relationship for about 18 months between 2013-15 with a 51-year-old female parishioner, who is now out of the country. The suit alleges the priest used his position as a religious counselor to sexually take advantage of her.

The suit names the priest and the diocese. The plaintiff and defendant are not being identified until the suit becomes part of the public record.

Return to bnd.com for more later on this developing story.

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