Prosecutor Seeks Data on Priests Named in Report; Haida: 'All I Had before Was Rumor'

By Robert Goodrich
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 29, 1993

St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida said Wednesday that he wanted to examine material gathered by an internal review board appointed by the Belleville Catholic Diocese to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against six priests. The board's report, issued last week, said four priests were being barred from the ministry based on the board's findings. The board is continuing to look into allegations against two other priests and a deacon.

Haida said that gave him reason to look into the matter. "All I had before was rumor," he said. Haida said he spoke briefly Wednesday with Bishop James Keleher, who had been out of town, and planned to meet soon with attorneys for the diocese. "I'm expecting that they're going to cooperate with me," Haida said. Sister Michelle Emmerich, spokeswoman for the diocese, confirmed that church officials would cooperate and said the diocese would follow all civil laws. "We have referred our diocesan attorneys into contact with the state's attorney," she said. Haida said his review could lead to further inquiry, a grand jury investigation or even criminal charges. Most of the legations involve claims of homosexual acts of priests with boys in their mid-teens to late teens. Emmerich has said the purported acts date back eight to 25 years, foreclosing criminal charges in most cases because of the statute of limitations. But David Clohessy of the St. Louis chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said, "I know some of these instances happened much more recently than the church would have us believe." Clohessy said Haida's promise to look into the allegations was overdue. He added, "It seems to me the church should have turned this information over from the outset." The four priests barred from the ministry are the Revs. Jerome Ratermann, 61, of Blessed Sacrament Church in Belleville; James Calhoun, 66, of St. Boniface Church in Germantown; Robert Chlopecki, 45, of St. Ann Church in Nashville; and Robert Vonnahmen, 62, of St. Joseph's Church in Elizabethtown.


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