5th Priest Accused of Misconduct; Belleville Diocese Removes Pastor from Nashville, Ill.

By Robert Kelly
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
April 27, 1993

A fifth Roman Catholic priest in the Belleville Diocese has been removed from a pastorate because of allegations of sexual misconduct. All five of the priests have been removed within the last two months after the diocese received allegations. Diocesan officials say a new policy for investigating such allegations is in effect. In the most recent case, the Rev. Robert Chlopecki was removed during the weekend as pastor of St. Ann's Church in Nashville, Ill., about 40 miles east of Belleville. Diocesan officials said only that the alleged incidents of sexual misconduct involving Chlopecki occurred more than 10 years ago and at an unspecified place other than Nashville. Chlopecki has been the pastor at St. Ann's for six years. Bishop James Keleher told the parishioners at St. Ann's during Sunday Masses that Chlopecki has been placed on administrative leave. Keleher encouraged parishioners to send cards and letters to Chlopecki through the church office, but he did not inform them of Chlopecki's whereabouts. Several parishioners expressed shock and sadnessn. "Everyone is very concerned and very shocked," said parishioner Richard Borowiak. "I just hope the allegations prove false." Keleher said that the allegation of sexual misconduct was reported to his office recently and that church officials were following diocesan policy in investigating it. The new policy requires investigations of such allegations to begin within 72 hours. A review board of diocesan officials will investigate. "We have our review board set up, and they are beginning to evaluate the information" in the allegations against all five priests, said Sister Michelle Emmerich, a spokeswoman for the diocese. Keleher has explained that accused priests were removed from their parishes to give them time to deal with allegations and participate in the investigative process. "As a church, we continue to invite anyone who has been abused to inform us of the incident," Keleher said Sunday. Monsignor Angelo Lombardo, pastor of St. Barbara's Catholic Church in nearby Okawville, Ill., has been named administrator of St. Ann's pending the outcome of the investigation involving Chlopecki. The four other priests in the diocese removed from their parishes because of allegations of sexual misconduct are: the Rev. James Calhoun of Germantown, the Rev. Robert Vonnahmen of Elizabethtown, the Rev. David Crook of New Baden and the Rev. Jerome Ratermann of Belleville. The Belleville Diocese includes most of Southern Illinois.


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