7th Priest Ousted on Sex Claim; Belleville Diocese Places St. Rose Pastor on Leave

By Robert Kelly
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
September 14, 1993

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville has removed a seventh priest from his parish because of an allegation that he had sexual contact with a teen-age boy more than 20 years ago, a church official said Monday. And still another priest in the diocese is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, but - at least for now - he will not be removed from his parish, the official said. The Rev. Edwin Kastner of St. Rose Church in the small Clinton County town of St. Rose has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of an allegation against him, said the Rev. James E. Margason, administrator of the diocese. Margason said the allegation concerned a claim that Kastner was involved in sexual misconduct with a teen-age boy more than 20 years ago. "It has not been determined if the allegation is true," Margason said. Margason said he had accepted the recommendation of a diocesan Review Board and placed Kastner, 72, on leave while an investigation continues into whether he should be returned to an active ministry. Since March, six other priests and a deacon in the Belleville Diocese - which comprises 28 counties in Southern Illinois - had been removed by former Bishop James Keleher on allegations of sexual misconduct. Last week, Keleher was installed as archbishop of Kansas City, Kan.; Margason was appointed diocesan administrator pending the appointment of a new bishop in Belleville. Four of the six priests removed by Keleher won't be returned to active ministries, Margason said. The investigation continues for the other two priests and the deacon. The diocese has about 110 active priests. Margason also said Monday that another priest from the diocese, whom he declined to identify, was under investigation by the St. Clair County state's attorney's office and state officials over a more recent allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor. Margason declined to discuss the allegation and said he was waiting for more information from authorities before determining if that priest should be placed on leave. For now, he said, the priest remained active. St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert B. Haida said his office was looking into allegations of sexual offenses by priests - including some that would fall within the statute of limitations. Normally such offenses cannot be prosecuted after three years, but Haida said that can be extended if the victim is a juvenile, or if a victim had suppressed memories of the offense. "The scope of our investigation is broader than just one allegation," Haida said. "Our investigation is all-inclusive and is beyond just one incident." As is his custom, Haida would not reveal specifics of the allegations, such as who was being investigated or what parishes were involved. Margason said he was satisfied that the unidentified priest could remain active unless further information indicates the priest could pose a danger to parishioners. "The diocese does not believe it has any information that would require the removal of the priest at this time," Margason said. Margason said he had called a meeting with parishioners at St. Rose for 7:30 tonight to discuss the removal of their pastor. The Rev. Ted Baumann, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in nearby Bartelso, has been appointed by Margason as temporary administrator at St. Rose, which is about 40 miles east of St. Louis. Kastner is cooperating with church officials and is getting counseling at an undisclosed place, Margason said. Some parishioners at St. Rose said Kastner had been the pastor there for about eight years. They said he had been a good priest. Fire Chief Mike Schumacher, a parishioner, said it was difficult to be stunned any more when a priest is removed at a diocesan church, given how often it has happened recently. He described Kastner as "kind of a private person," and said he had been a good administrator for the parish. Another parishioner, Virgil Tebbe, said: "You feel sorry for the guy, but you don't know what else to say. When they're accused of something that many years ago, it's pretty hard to prove or disprove it."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.