Metro-East News

Survivors network calls on bishop to add more names to clergy sex abuse list

Survivors network calls on Belleville bishop to add more clergy to sex abuse list

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests requests that Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton add more names to a list of priests “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of children.
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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests requests that Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton add more names to a list of priests “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of children.

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with all nine names.)

A victims group and advocates say Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton’s list of priests “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of children is missing at least nine names.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests gathered Wednesday afternoon outside the Diocese headquarters to request that Braxton update the list, and that he release work histories, photos and current locations of every accused priest or deacon.

The group, known as S.N.A.P., said releasing more details could help victims identify them.

Braxton didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Diocese previously published a list of 17 members of the clergy who had been removed from ministry because of allegations of sexual abuse. In a statement from December, the Diocese said most of them were removed in the 1990s, after a diocesan review board was formed to investigate allegations from victims.

According to S.N.A.P., the priests all have ties to Southern Illinois and should be added to the Diocese’s list because they are accused of abusing children there or in other places.

David Clohessy, of S.N.A.P., said he believes they were left off the list because they either weren’t ordained in the Belleville Diocese or they belonged to a religious order.

But the group says they worked in Belleville, Alton, Henry, Sparta, Godfrey, Toluca, Mendota, Bethany, Campus and Carbondale at one point.

Braxton file
Most Rev. Edward K. Braxton during a mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville. Derik Holtmann News-Democrat

Clohessy said S.N.A.P. was pushing for more names to be released this week because the men who are alive could still have contact with children today, and because it could provide “some tiny measure of justice and comfort” to past victims.

S.N.A.P. was also urging people to reach out for help if they experienced sexual abuse as children. “Step one is picking up the phone and calling somebody you trust,” Clohessy said. “... As long as victims stay silent, nothing changes.”

Most of the priests have already been publicly named by the religious orders they had been members of.

The Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, for instance, recently stated that there had been more than one credible claim that Chester E. Gaiter sexually abused a child or “vulnerable adult.”

His pastoral assignments included St. Joseph’s Parish in East. St. Louis, as well as schools and churches in Missouri, according to the order.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Minnesota also named several priests who were the subject of a “credible accusation” of sexual abuse of a child or possession of child pornography as part of a lawsuit settlement.

Some of those priests previously worked in Belleville, including James Vincent Fitzgerald, Paul Kabat, Orville Lawrence Munie, Emil Twardochleb and Michael Charland, according to a previous Belleville News-Democrat report.

Charland also worked with teenagers in Sparta through a youth program.

Fred Lenczycki, who S.N.A.P. says once worked in Belleville, was named in the Diocese of Joliet’s list of priests who had credible allegations of sexual misconduct with children made against them while they served the Diocese.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles named Larry Lorenzoni as a priest who had been credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse. Lorenzoni later taught at a school in Carbondale, according to his obituary.

Another priest who S.N.A.P. wants added to Belleville’s list is Kenneth Roberts, who was accused of sexual abuse by a former Belleville student in a civil lawsuit. The complaint states that the abuse happened while Roberts was “conducting a national ministry,” which took him to the Diocese of Belleville.

The lawsuit was dismissed, and appeals took it to the Illinois Supreme Court, which affirmed St. Clair County’s judgment that the statute of limitations had run out.

The push to add names to the Belleville list comes after former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said an investigation into the Catholic church found that at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse had not been identified in Illinois.

“Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters,” Madigan stated in a news release from December.

The investigation started after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on the scope of abuse there.

The Belleville Diocese responded with its own news release at the time, stating that the Attorney General’s office had not reached out to say its list had any omissions or errors.

“The Attorney General’s preliminary report cites combined statistics for all six Illinois dioceses of the Province of Chicago without delineating between them,” the Diocese stated. “This could give the false impression that a significant number of credibly accused Belleville clergy has not been disclosed. This is incorrect.”

The metro-east is home for investigative reporter Lexi Cortes. She was raised in Granite City, went to school in Edwardsville and now lives in Collinsville. Lexi has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat since 2014, winning multiple state awards for her investigative and community service reporting.