Priest on Leave over Old Sex Allegations

Chicago Sun-Times
September 4, 1994

A veteran Roman Catholic priest has been removed from the ministry because of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor about eight years ago.

The Rev. Daniel Friedman, a former chaplain at a church-sponsored camp and former pastor in Vienna and Stonefort, became the 10th priest in the Belleville Diocese to face sex allegations within the last 18 months.

The allegation against Friedman was first investigated about eight years ago, and a priest who is now the diocese's vicar general recommended his removal in 1988, Bishop Wilton Gregory said Friday.

"I cannot comment on why his recommendation was not implemented as it predates my time in this diocese," Gregory said in a statement. He was appointed head of the diocese of about 100 active priests in December. "I can tell you that the Diocesan Review Board has recommended to me this week that he be removed and he has been removed."

Archbishop James Keleher, who served as Belleville bishop from December, 1984 to September, 1993 and is now in Kansas City, Kan., defended his handling of the incident in a statement.

"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 this particular priest," said Keleher, who created the board.

Friedman, a Carmi native in his late 40s, has been a priest since 1972. He was chaplain at Camp Ondessonk in Johnson County from about 1985 until August of this year, said Patrick Higgins, the camp's executive director.

The priest also was pastor at St. Paul's in Vienna and at a small mission church in Stonefort about the same time, Higgins said.

Gregory refused to give any details about the allegation, but said "it was related to his service at Camp Ondessonk." He said Friedman was placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

Friedman was to become pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Red Bud, but Gregory said that appointment had been rescinded.

Since March, 1993, 10 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct involving either minors or young adults. Some of the allegations are decades old.

Five priests have been permanently removed from their parishes, including the Rev. Robert Vonnahmen, who was Ondessonk's director until 1985. Friedman, four other priests and a deacon are on administrative leave, while another priest requested a leave of absence.

"This whole episode shows the inadequacy of these internal investigations and review boards," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in St. Louis. "That's why law enforcement has to deal with these things and not the church."

Gregory said he would appoint a panel to review the camp. He said members would "reflect the diversity of the diocese" and he expected a report by next summer.


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