Firefighter Recounts Alleged Abuse by Priest

By Martin Van Der Werf
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri]
November 24, 2003

At age 13, the boy's faith was so strong that he was certain that he was going to become a Roman Catholic priest. Then a priest who had written about his long journey to the clergy walked into his life in Belleville and betrayed that faith.

Now grown and using the pseudonym "Jake" in a telephone interview Sunday, he said he doesn't want money from a suit he filed two weeks ago in St. Clair County Court although he is asking for more than $50,000 in damages.

More importantly, he said, he wants to warn others about the Rev. Kenneth Roberts, whom he calls a sexual predator. Roberts, now 73, has been forced to retire from the priesthood, but Jake believes he may still be ministering to the young.

"What he did completely uprooted my faith, it completely uprooted my plans," said Jake, now 32 and a firefighter and paramedic in Southern Illinois.

Jake was a student at St. Mary's Catholic School in Belleville in 1984, when Roberts, known for his book, "From Playboy to Priest," spent a week at the parish. The autobiography chronicled Roberts' career as a flight attendant until he answered a calling to be a priest.

Jake had read Roberts' book as a young student. Jake sought a private meeting with Roberts at the rectory to talk about becoming a priest. He said Roberts assaulted him at that first meeting.

Roberts has been named repeatedly in lawsuits and complaints. In 1994, the Archdiocese of St. Louis barred him from the ministry because of two complaints of sexual misconduct that had occurred nearly 15 years earlier. Roberts moved to Dallas, where an altar boy complained that he was sexually molested.

Roberts could not be located Sunday for comment.


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