Editorials

Placing blame for priest’s kiddie porn, meth addictions

Police mug shot of Gerald Hechenberger, who was removed as a priest after being charged with distributing child pornography and possessing meth.
Police mug shot of Gerald Hechenberger, who was removed as a priest after being charged with distributing child pornography and possessing meth. Provided

Gerald Hechenberger is no doubt a troubled individual.

You can expect his friend of 40 years to defend the former priest and seek someone else to blame for his porn and meth addictions. You can expect that he would not admit, even to his closest friend, a sexual attraction to children.

But you cannot expect anyone but Hechenberger to shoulder responsibility for his actions. Maybe his addiction is an illness, but the child porn was a choice that “subpigboy4u” made over and over again. You cannot expect a whole lot of patience and forgiveness, at least not yet.

There are too many unanswered questions. Some will be answered by the court system, but the most troubling ones need to be answered by the Belleville Diocese and Bishop Edward Braxton.

Before there was “Spotlight,” Belleville had a nest of 13 pedophile priests that it publicly ousted in the mid-1990s. The public part came after years of shuffling the troubled priests from parish to parish whenever their proclivities came to light and after years of silencing, shaming or ignoring their victims.

We all hoped the lessons of those dark days and the extreme damage they did to the children, the faithful and the clergy of Southern Illinois had been seared into our consciousness. Hechenberger’s multiple leaves and frequent moves between parishes leave us questioning whether the lessons were conveniently set aside because a damaged priest was considered better than no priest at all.

We pray that was not the case. We await enlightenment.

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