Survivors network calls on Belleville bishop to add more clergy to sex abuse list
As recently as February, accusations of sexual abuse have come to light about five priests who have ties to Southern Illinois, according to a victims group.
Members of the group, called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and other advocates wrote those priests’ names in chalk on the sidewalk outside the Belleville Diocese at the end of March.
They want Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton to add those five names to the Belleville Diocese’s public list of priests, which now includes 17 men who were “removed from ministry after credibly substantiated allegations” of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.
The group, known as S.N.A.P., said the five priests’ names should be included because they have been accused of abuse, too, and have lived or worked in the Belleville Diocese.
The names include Paul Joseph Bruening, Gavin O’Connor, Donald Dummer, Joseph P. Lessard and Ronald E. Brassard.
Braxton and Monsignor John Myler, a spokesman for the Diocese, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Bruening was named most recently on a list of priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children released two months ago in a Catholic diocese more than 500 miles from Belleville.
Bruening went on to work in the Diocese of Belleville in 1962, five years after he was accused of abusing a girl in Iowa, according to the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa’s list, which included all of his assignments.
He also was pastor at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Metropolis from 1970-75 and at St. Ann Parish in Nashville from 1975-78. Both churches are in the Belleville Diocese. Bruening died in 2002.
O’Connor’s name was released in 2015 in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s list of “credibly accused” priests. O’Connor was in Marion from 1985-88 and at St. Joseph’s parish in Cobden in 1988, according to S.N.A.P.
There were multiple allegations against O’Connor, and he was removed from ministry in 1989, the Bridgeport Diocese stated on its list.
In 2014, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis included Dummer’s name on a list of priests with “claims of substantiated abuse” against them. S.N.A.P. says Dummer taught at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville in the 1970s. He was removed from ministry in 2006, according to the Archdiocese.
Lessard, who S.N.A.P. says lived in Prairie du Rocher from 1994-2003, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he abused about 12 boys in three parishes from the late 1960s to the late ‘70’s, according to the newspaper’s 2002 article.
Brassard was accused in a 1995 lawsuit filed in St. Clair County of abusing a boy in the early 1980s while he was assigned to Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, according to a Belleville News-Democrat report at the time.
Writing the names Bruening, O’Connor, Dummer, Lessard and Brassard in chalk at the Belleville Diocese was the second time S.N.A.P. and its supporters demonstrated there this year. In January, the group had asked for Braxton to add nine names to the Diocese’s list.
In addition to the names, S.N.A.P. has requested that the priests’ photos, work histories and current locations be included in the list.
But S.N.A.P. gave the Belleville Diocese credit for including priests on its list who had been accused of sexual misconduct against adults. It said many dioceses limit their lists to clergy accused of sexually abusing of children.