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  Convict Ties Abuse to Priest
Church Investigates Decades-Old Case

By George Pawlaczyk
Belleville News-Democrat
May 20, 2003

CARLYLE -- A 49-year-old father of 13 blamed being repeatedly sexually abused as a teenager by a Belleville Catholic Diocese priest as the underlying cause of his own sex attack on an underage boy.

James W. Stamper Jr. of New Baden was sentenced Tuesday to five years in state prison on his guilty plea to performing oral sex on a boy under 17.

Clinton County State's Attorney Stan Brandmeyer said Monday that the priest was identified in court as the Rev. William Rensing of Sparta.

Brandmeyer said Monday that a statement read by a defense witness who had counseled Stamper "implied that what happened to him (Stamper) many years ago was the triggering factor to what he did in this case."

Because Stamper's allegations of abuse are about 30 years old, the statute of limitations expired long ago, preventing any current criminal probe of Rensing, Brandmeyer said.

But a charter adopted last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops requires an investigation of a priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor no matter how old the allegations.

Clinton County Circuit Judge Kelly Long could have sentenced Stamper to seven years in prison. Long, according to court documents, was concerned with the Stamper children, who probably will have to rely on public aid without their father.

All 13 children lined a bench at the back of the courtroom to witness the fate of their father.

When the testimony would become sexually explicit, Stamper's attorney, John Hudspeth, convinced his client's children to leave, except for the oldest, a 17-year-old.

Rensing, 72, who has denied any wrongdoing, was removed from active ministry in October, and is under investigation by the Diocesan Review Board. Rensing's case was recently sent back to the diocese from Rome where it was briefly reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monsignor James Margason, the diocesan vicar general, said he expects that the review board will finish with Rensing's case soon. Margason said he could not comment on Stamper's criminal case because Stamper is considered a potential victim in the Rensing case.

The church's case against Rensing began last year when an unidentified man, who turned out to be Stamper, called a diocesan sex abuse hot line. He accused Rensing of sex abuse while stating that he was himself under investigation for sexually abusing a child.

Stamper was advised not to identify or incriminate himself. After a few weeks, church officials arranged for an unidentified lawyer to represent Stamper, who then again called the hot line.

The Rev. Ray Schultz, a priest and pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Fairview Heights, said at the sentencing that Stamper came to him and admitted his own crime while detailing allegations against Rensing. Stamper is a member of the parish.

"I believe he was telling me the truth," said Schultz during a telephone interview Monday. He cautioned that because Stamper was not much more than a child at the time he was allegedly abused, he might believe something that did not actually happen.

"I think from what he said that he's telling the truth. But you know how the mind works. We take experiences, especially as children, and we tend to color them. To exaggerate often times," Schultz said. "That's why I think the best policy is to let the review board decide this."

Schultz, who said he admired Stamper's "courage" in coming forward, would not comment about his statement in court that Stamper talked about an alleged trip with Rensing and two other priests to a gay bar in St. Louis about 1970.

"I believe that to reveal anything about that would violate the priest-parishioner relationship," he said.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, said Stamper's personal history of allegedly being abused and becoming an abuser is not rare.

"It's a painfully common pattern. It just shows how devastating sexual abuse can be," Clohessy, said. "Our hearts ache for this man as well as for his victim."

 
 

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