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  Belleville Bishop Puts Priest on Leave
Pastor Faces Allegation of Sexual Misconduct
He Served 2 S. Illinois Parishes

By Robert Goodrich
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
October 20, 1998

The Catholic Diocese of Belleville has placed another priest on administrative leave, based on an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor alleged to have occurred about eight years ago.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory said the allegation was brought to the attention of church officials last week.

The priest, the Rev. E. Alan Ruppert, had been serving as pastor of two parishes in Southern Illinois, St. Clement in McLeansboro and St. John Nepomucene in Dahlgren, which is 15 miles northwest of McLeansboro. .

The Rev. Joseph A. Lawler has been assigned to care for the two parishes while the matter is resolved. The congregations were informed of the matter Sunday.

Since 1993, diocesan officials have removed 13 priests and a deacon from active ministries over allegations of sexual abuse of minors, mostly in their teens. The diocese has slightly more than 100 priests covering 128 parishes.

In November 1995, the diocese ended almost three years of investigation. No criminal charges were filed, although some victims filed civil suits.

Only one priest was returned to active ministry after his review board evaluation was completed. One has died, and others have retired.

Gregory said Ruppert was cooperating. He emphasized that the diocese had not determined the validity of the allegation but was following diocesan policy governing such claims.

"Each time we face an allegation of this nature, it is a difficult and traumatic event for the victim or victims, for their families, for our parishes, for the local community and for the priests and their families," Gregory said.

"I will continue to act in the most expedient way possible in responding to these cases where children may be at risk. We will continue to offer counseling for the victims and the priests," he added.

Ruppert was unavailable for comment. The Rev. James Margason, vicar general, said diocesan policy does not allow disclosure of a priest's response to such allegations.

Ruppert has been a priest in the diocese since 1978. He formerly served as chaplain during Boy Scout summer camp at Camp Joy near Carlyle, operated by the Okaw Valley Council, based in Belleville.

Church officials are not saying who made the charge of sexual misconduct or where it allegedly occurred. The diocese has a toll-free number, 1-800-640-3044, for reporting allegations of sexual misconduct.

 
 

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