Pastor Ridicules Parishioner from Pulpit
Assistant Pastor Facing Sexual Abuse Charges
NBC 5 [Chicago IL]
January 15, 2004
CHICAGO -- A suburban Catholic priest says donations are down and he wants parishioners to kick in more money. That very church, however, is where the assistant pastor has been charged with sexually assaulting two teenage girls.
NBC5's Mary Ann Ahern reported that when a frustrated parishioner voiced his concerns about the way the church had refused to cooperate in the investigation of the assaults, that parishioner was allegedly ridiculed from the pulpit.
Initially, members of St. Peter's Catholic Church, in Geneva, couldn't believe one of their priests was charged with sexually assaulting the two teens.
The accused, Rev. Mark Campobello has served at eight parishes in 11 years. He also had been the assistant principal and spiritual director at Aurora Central Catholic High School.
Since Campobello's case came to light, church donations have fallen. The pastor asked parishioners to dig deeper, but one of his faithful asked for answers first.
Parishioner Frank Botche, wanted to know, "Who knew what at the parish? When was this brought to the attention of the pastor? Who knew about this at the time and what action was taken at the time?"
Botche, who happens to be in law enforcement, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Herald newspaper suggesting that fellow parishioners hold back on their tithing.
"Refusing to financially support a diocese that seems to value the reputation of an alleged sex abuser over his victim appears to be the only way to get the diocese's attention," Botche's said in the letter.
That's when the pastor asked him to recant. When Botche refused, the pastor ridiculed him from the pulpit, according to Ahern.
"I was sitting there with my family, in front of all the parishioners that were there that day" Botche told NBC5, "and I just couldn't believe it."
"(The pastor) went on for 20 minutes, impugning my integrity, basically saying that I was an enemy of the church and that I had committed a violation of the eighth commandment by bearing false witness," he said.
The pastor at St. Peter's would not talk with Ahern on Thursday, but Botche said that the cleric sent a message to all parishioners "by calling me out like this in front of the congregation."
The message, according to Botche: "If you dare speak out and discuss an issue publicly that he doesn't want discussed, this is what he's going to do to you."
Campobello appeared in court Thursday to face charges related to the assaults. He was the assistant pastor at St. Peter's Church in Geneva when he allegedly molested a 14-year-old parishioner.
The criminal case, Ahern reported, is at an impasse. The Rockford Diocese is still refusing to turn over the priest's personnel file and is being held in contempt of court. That part of the case is in the hands of the Illinois Appellate Court.
Prosecutors believe the church conducted its own investigation before authorities were told of the allegations.
"I have never seen a case where an employer has refused to turn over records that a court has ordered," said Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason.
Ahern said the attorney for the Rockford Diocese said they are protecting Campobello's rights because he belongs to a life ministry and the state does not have the right to intrude on a religious entity.
The two teenage girls are expected to testify at Campobello's trial later this year.
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