|Two Former Priests at Odds in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Suit Alleges Sexual Abuse; Both Once Served in Diocese of Peoria
By Tim Sampson
April 21, 2009
Two former Catholic priests who served in Peoria are now plaintiff and defendant in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse.
Ben Rodriguez, who left the priesthood in 2006, is claiming Gordon J. Pillon sexually molested him multiple times as a teenager. Rodriguez and Pillon spent more than a decade serving in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria together.
Pillon was removed from ministry duty in 2006 after Rodriguez made his initial claims of abuse. Now Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against Pillon in California, where he claims the abuse took place.
The abuse is alleged to have occurred at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra, Calif., over the course of several years starting in 1979.
Rodriguez came to the church as a parishioner at age 15 while he was having family troubles. He said Pillon, the priest at that church, became his "spiritual director" and "confidant" but eventually used that role to take advantage of him.
"After isolating me, (Pillon) invited me into his private apartment where he gave me drugs and alcohol," Rodriguez said in a written statement. "There he sexually abused me numerous times."
Rodriguez said it was under Pillon's guidance that he decided to enter the priesthood. He joined the Peoria Diocese in the early 1990s. Pillon came to Peoria several years later, in 1993.
In 2006, Rodriguez said he came into contact with a minor in Peoria who also claimed to be abused by Pillon. It was in talking to him, Rodriguez said, that he realized he had been a victim himself.
Rodriguez filed a complaint with Bishop Daniel Jenky that same year, and Pillon was removed from ministry duties, according to a news release from the Peoria Diocese.
But an attorney for Rodriguez, Jeff Anderson, said that after filing his complaint, Rodriguez was "ostracized" and forced to leave the diocese.
The Peoria Diocese is not a party to the lawsuit.
Rodriguez's lawsuit names the Diocese of Orange and the parish in La Habra as defendants and temporarily lists the accused former priest as John Doe for procedural reasons, Anderson said. Pillon's name will be added later, Anderson added.
Rodriguez now works as a substitute teacher in Riverside, Calif., while Pillon teaches at the University of Northern Virginia's campus in Prague, Czech Republic.
An e-mail from The Associated Press to a Gordon Pillon at the Prague campus was not immediately returned.
Rodriguez's lawsuit was filed against Pillon on Monday in Orange County, Calif., Superior Court and seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
Tim Sampson can be reached at 686-3251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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