|Bishop Paprocki Responds to SNAP Requests
Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield
August 5, 2010
[Bishop Paprocki's letter to Mr. David Clohessy, National Director for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests]
SPRINGFIELD — Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has reassured a victims’ rights group that there are no priests with proven, admitted or credible accusations of child abuse currently in ministry in the diocese.
Bishop Paprocki’s letter is in response to a June 30 communication from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), asking for an investigation of a Franciscan priest and a listing on the diocesan website of all clerics credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.
“Since I am new to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, I have needed to look into the matters about which you have inquired,” wrote Bishop Paprocki, who was installed as ninth bishop of the diocese on June 22.
The Franciscan priest, Father Henry Willenborg, served at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, a Franciscan formation house in Quincy, from 1976 to 1987. In October 2009, a story in the The New York Times revealed that during his assignment in Quincy, the priest had fathered a child during an affair with a woman who had come to him for marital counseling. The Franciscan Order investigated the woman’s claim, came to a settlement with her and over the years paid child support and assisted with college tuition.
The priest left the Quincy area in 1987. He was never assigned at a parish of the diocese or any other diocesan institution.
In The New York Times story in October, the woman involved claimed knowledge of Father Willenborg’s abuse of a minor during his years in Quincy. Father Willenborg, by this time serving in a parish in the Diocese of Superior, Wis., has been removed from ministry by the local bishop there. However, the office of the Franciscans of the Sacred Heart Province in St. Louis says no claim of misconduct or sexual abuse of a minor has ever been brought forward.
“I understand that outreach and investigations have been properly conducted by the Franciscan Order,” wrote Bishop Paprocki in his letter to SNAP. He also pointed out that the diocese, through its website and the diocesan newspaper Catholic Times, encourages and provides opportunity for victims of child sexual abuse to report to the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator.
Bishop Paprocki noted that over 24,000 members of the Springfield diocese have participated in the diocese’s safe environment programs. These programs train clergy, staff and volunteers in parishes and other diocesan institution to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and to notify proper public authorities if sexual abuse is suspected.
In response to SNAP’s request that the diocese post a list of known abusers, Bishop Paprocki wrote, “… it is my understanding that there was considerable publicity at the time that such clerics were removed from ministry in the Diocese of Springfield and that they are now either deceased or no longer under ecclesiastical accountability. At this time there are no priests in ministry in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois with any proven, admitted or credible accusations of child abuse.”
In closing, Bishop Paprocki wrote to SNAP, “I offer my prayers daily for the work of your organization and for those who have suffered the effects of sexual abuse.”
A complete text of Bishop Paprocki’s letter is available here: www.dio.org/safeenvironment.
Bishop Paprocki says that anyone with knowledge of even a single instance of sexual abuse of a minor should contact local law enforcement authorities or call the diocesan victim assistance coordinator, Patricia Kornfeld, at (217) 321-1155.
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