What are survivors and Springfield doing about accused priests?


December 26 2018

By Cory Davenport

During a Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, announcement, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called a press conference to detail five priests with “substantiated” claims of abuse not previously named from the Springfield Diocese – one of whom served in Alton.

The Priests

SNAP named Thomas G. Meyer, who formerly served at the pastor for Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Alton from 1990-1998, as one of the priests with what SNAP describes as “substantiated” abuse allegations stemming from his previous work at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Archdiocese. SNAP noted no such allegations arose from Meyer’s time as a priest in Illinois, but added the organization “fears he may have hurt Central Illinois children.”

Outside of Alton and Minnesota, Meyer also worked in the Belleville Diocese at St. Henry’s Seminary (1971-1977 with a small gap between 1972-72), King’s House of Retreats (1982-1983) and St. Henry’s Oblate Residence (2007-2012). Meyer died in 2012.

In a release from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Archdiocese, Meyer was in fact named as one of 19 priests acknowledged to have “substantial abuse claims.” He was on the list from the Oblates and Diocese of Duluth as early as 2015 after the diocese was sued under the Child Victims Act in May and June of 2013 – just after Meyers’s death. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in 2015.

Also named in the Dec. 21 announcement from SNAP was Father Henry Willenborg who was accused of abuse stemming from his time at Our Lady of Angels Franciscan Seminary in Quincy. He is formerly accused of sexually abusing a high school girl and even impregnating an adult parishioner who allegedly came to him for counseling. He moved from Quincy to a treatment center for troubled priests.

Unlike Meyer, Willenborg is still alive, and SNAP believes him to still be a priest somewhere.

SNAP’s Pursuit of Accountability

“Both clerics, along with Fr. Downey, who is also missing from the list, belong to Catholic religious orders who were given permission to work in the Springfield Diocese by Springfield’s bishops,” the announcement stated. “For that reason, SNAP maintains that the current head of the diocese, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, can and must include religious order clerics on his list of accused wrongdoers, as several other bishops have done. These men may have hurt Central Illinois kids and may still work, visit or live in Central Illinois.”

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