Belleville Diocese Removes Fourth Accused Priest

By Patricia Corrigan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
March 31, 1993

A fourth priest in the Belleville Diocese has been removed after being accused of sexual misconduct.

The priest is the Rev. David Crook, pastor at St. George Church in New Baden, Ill., for the past three years. He has been asked to leave while the allegation is investigated, said Bishop James P. Keleher of the Belleville Diocese.

The bishop spoke briefly to parishioners Tuesday evening at St. George Church. New Baden, with about 2,800 residents and four churches, is about 35 miles east of St. Louis.

"It is not easy to come before you with this message," Keleher told those assembled. Every pew was full.

"Recently, an allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against your pastor. The allegation involves sexual conduct with a teen-ager some years ago."

Keleher said Crook has been asked to leave during the investigation.

"He has not been asked to step down," Keleher said. "But Father Crook needs time to deal with the allegation."

He said Crook is receiving "both pastoral and professional support at this difficult time." Keleher told parishoners he would appoint a priest as a temporary administrator for St. George Church.

No other information was disclosed, and neither Keleher nor Crook was available for comment.

Ed Sander, a member of the parish for 15 years, said, "I hope the general feeling of the parish is like mine - that this is an allegation and that's all it is, and that whatever happened, happened several years ago."

Sander, who said he had breakfast with Crook and other members of the parish men's club on Sunday, said Crook is "a fabulous person who has done a lot for this parish."

"People make mistakes," Sander said.

Some parishioners left the church in tears after Keleher's announcement.

"Father David is a wonderful priest," said a woman who declined to give her name.

"We feel hurt about this. He's done a lot for the parish," added a man, who also would not give his name.

On March 18, two priests in the Belleville Diocese were removed from their posts because of allegations of misconduct. They are the Rev. James Calhoun, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Germantown, Ill., and the Rev. Robert Vonnahmen, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Elizabethtown, Ill.

The incident with Calhoun allegedly occurred more than 10 years ago and allegedly involved sexual misconduct with a young adult. Vonnahmen is accused of sexual misconduct with a minor more than 25 years ago.

On March 6, the Rev. Jerome Ratermann submitted his resignation as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Belleville because of allegations of sexual misconduct while he was principal at Mater Dei Catholic High School from 1964-69.

The Belleville Diocese set up a toll-free telephone number on Tuesday for anyone wishing to report incidents of sexual misconduct by clergy in the diocese. The number is 1-800-640-3044.


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