Priests in Exile Dismay Lingers over Abuse Charges in Belleville Diocese

By Kathryn Rogers and Robert Kelly Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 22, 1994 | Go to article overview

Priests in Exile Dismay Lingers over Abuse Charges in Belleville Diocese


Kathryn Rogers and Robert Kelly Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. TERESA CHURCH in Belleville glows with yellow ribbons - on the church doors, on trees outside the church, on parishioners' cars parked for Sunday Mass.

The ribbons signal support for the Rev. Louis Peterson, who stepped down as pastor in January amid allegations that he sexually abused a boy.

He professed his innocence, as do many at the parish, and they want him back.

"Too many people (are) coming out with false stories and trying to get money from the church," said one woman attending church on a recent Sunday. She wouldn't give her name, but said, "It's got to stop."

"It" started in March 1993 - a stunning series of allegations of sexual abuse by Belleville diocese clerics. The Rev. James Margason, the diocese's vicar general, said the disclosures came "almost every couple of weeks" for several months last year.

In separate incidents going back three decades, nine priests and a deacon were said to have molested adolescent boys. Most recently, three priests added their voices to a chorus of more than 30 accusers, claiming they, too, had been molested.

The diocese removed eight priests and the deacon from their jobs while it investigated charges against them. Only Peterson, the ninth priest, left voluntarily.

One by one, the priests dropped from sight. One by one, from embarrassingly public diocesan announcements, congregations learned that their spiritual leaders were suspected of committing grievous sins. Parishioners reacted with disbelief. Some congregations went into something like mourning.

Doubts of all kinds linger as investigations drag on, having failed so far to clear any of the 10. Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, who took over the diocese three months ago, is reviewing all the cases and has yet to determine the priests' fate. He has given no indication of when he might do so. `SO MANY, SO QUICKLY'

Nine priests are 8 percent of the diocese's complement of 110, a higher percentage than experts' highest estimates of the national average of sexually abusive priests. The Conference of Bishops says 2 percent of priests are at least potential abusers of pre-pubescent children.

Dr. A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist with Johns Hopkins University and a former priest who has specialized in priests' sexual disorders, estimates that 6 percent of all priests have abused minors, including teen-agers.

But Margason said Belleville looks worse than average only because "we got so many (cases) so quickly." After the diocese set up a policy, a review board and a hot-line number for abuse cases, "people started reporting incidents," he said.

In addition, Belleville has been more public about sex abuse allegations and investigations than most dioceses in the country. Openness is catching on with a growing number of the 188 U.S. Catholic dioceses publicly removing priests accused of sex abuse.

Those dioceses, which include Chicago, think candor - as wrenching as it may be - beats silence in the face of swirling rumors and suspicions, said Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. `COULDN'T BELIEVE IT'

Disclosures in the last few years have left an impression that child abuse among the nation's 53,000 Catholic priests has reached epidemic proportions. Several situations far eclipse Belleville's on the sensationalism scale. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe faces 41 lawsuits seeking a total of $50 million in damages over sex abuse allegations. Church officials estimate that over 30 years, from 45 to 50 priests there abused as many as 200 people.

Last December, an investigation found that 11 Franciscan monks in a seminary at Santa Barbara, Calif., had abused 34 boys over 23 years. And in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Santa Fe, lawsuits have named James Porter - now in prison - as the abuser of dozens of children while he was a priest. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Priests in Exile Dismay Lingers over Abuse Charges in Belleville Diocese
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.