Another Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse; Allegations Were Made against Camp Chaplain As Long Ago As 1988

By Robert Kelly
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
September 3, 1994

The Belleville Catholic Diocese has relieved a tenth priest of his duties because of an allegation of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Daniel Friedman, who had been pastor of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Vienna, Ill., and the chaplain at Camp Ondessonk in Southern Illinois, was ordered removed from parish work and from any private contact with children by Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Belleville Diocese.

Gregory announced at a news conference on Friday that a diocesan review board had recommended Friedman's removal.

The bishop said the allegation against Friedman involved reports of sexual misconduct with a minor "related to his service at Camp Ondessonk" in the late 1980s. Gregory declined to be more specific. Friedman was unavailable for comment.

Friedman, who is in his late 40s, is the ninth priest in the diocese to be removed since March 1993 because of sexual abuse allegations. Another priest stepped down voluntarily after learning he was under investigation. A deacon also has been removed because of similar allegations.

Before the first allegations were made public, the diocese had about 110 active priests serving 28 counties and 124,000 Catholics in Southern Illinois.

Gregory said that the Rev. James E. Margason, vicar general of the diocese, had recommended in 1988 that Friedman be removed from working at the summer camp but that no action was taken then.

Gregory said the review board, which was established last year, took a new look at the allegations and decided that Friedman should be removed. The bishop said he didn't know why Margason's recommendation had not been acted upon in 1988, when the Most Rev. James P. Keleher was bishop of Belleville.

Keleher, who is now archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., issued a statement later Friday saying that "six years ago, prior to the establishment of the review board, there simply was not sufficient evidence in my opinion to justify disciplinary action" against Friedman.

"Apparently, more substantive information has since been provided to the review board," the statement added.

Friedman had been the chaplain of Camp Ondessonk at Ozark, Ill., since 1986. He had been slated to become pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Red Bud, but Gregory said he had rescinded that appointment and instead named Monsignor Bernard O. Sullivan as temporary administrator of the parish in Red Bud.

The Rev. Robert Vonnahmen, a founder and former director of the camp, also was removed from parish work last year over sexual abuse allegations.

Gregory also announced Friday that he would set up an independent committee of clergy members, laity and experts on working with children to review the policies and administration of Camp Ondessonk.

Patrick Higgins, the camp's executive director, said he was unaware of any problems between priests and campers since he became chief administrator there in November 1992. He said he would work with the independent committee and give its members any information they wanted.

Higgins also said he had heard no complaints about Friedman as camp chaplain during the last two years.

He said staff at the camp, which hosted about 3,700 campers this summer, are trained to identify possible victims of sexual abuse.


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