SNAP Coming to Alton

By Linda N. Weller
The Associated Press, carried in The Telegraph [Alton IL]
February 18, 2006

ALTON -- A St. Louis-based, national activist group critical of the Roman Catholic Church's handling of sex offender priests plans to distribute leaflets Sunday outside an Alton church.

Members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who claim they are "clergy molestation victims," say they will hand out fliers about John Steven Rabideau at 11:30 a.m. outside St. Mary's (Immaculate Conception) Catholic Church, 519 E. Fourth St.

Rabideau, 44, is a former priest who served at St. Mary's and the former St. Patrick's Catholic Church at 918 E. Fifth St. in Alton in 1991 and 1992. He was a fugitive for more than seven years on warrants for seven child sex charges in Michigan.

St. Patrick's Church closed several years after Rabideau left.

Father Jim Walther of St. Mary's said he read about Rabideau's arrest in a newspaper but did not know SNAP would be handing out fliers Sunday -- or why.

"I'm not hiding anything," Walther said.

He said he spoke to parishioners during Masses last Sunday, asking for anyone with "questions about (Rabideau's) ministry or any information I need to know, to let me know or call the (Springfield) Diocese."

As of Friday, Walther said no one had contacted him about Rabideau.

Rabideau left St. Mary's several years before Walther came to the church.

A news release from SNAP says the leaflet will "urge parishioners to contact their families, friends and former parishioners and ask if they were hurt by the cleric; urge anyone who was molested to come forward, get help and call police if they suspected, witnessed or experienced any abuse, so kids will be protected."

"This case reminds us again how often abusive Catholic clergy cross borders to evade the law," SNAP national director David Clohessy of St. Louis said in a news release. "We hope Rabideau's arrest will prompt others who he hurt to come forward and bring some peace of mind to his victims."

Police in Colombia in South America arrested Rabideau on Feb. 4 when he tried to enter that country from Ecuador. An Interpol "red notice" notified border police that Rabideau was an international wanted person.

After his arrest, Rabideau was taken to Bogota, Colombia, then flown to Miami until he could be transferred to Bay County, Mich.

Rabideau is accused of having sexual contact there with three boys between the ages of 6 and 14 in 1985 and 1987.

Bay County Prosecutor Joseph K. Sheeran said the offenses were not related to Rabideau's duties as a priest but rather while he was visiting the same house as the victims.

Rabideau was a seminarian at Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Boston but studying in Rome at the time of the offenses, the oblates' attorney said. Rabideau, who is from Bay City, returned home during summers.

The youths did not report the incidents until 1998.

Rabideau has been a fugitive since 1998, when he was charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He also is charged with six counts of second-degree criminal sexual assault, a touching offense. Each of those counts has a maximum penalty of 15 years.

Besides being on the run in South America, Rabideau reportedly also served as a priest in the Philippines in 2004.

In a statement he issued to The Associated Press, oblates' attorney James G. Reardon Jr. of Worcester, Mass., said Rabideau was ordained in 1990. He was suspended as a priest in 1992 then fled the order in 1996. The order dismissed Rabideau in 1997 after he refused to obey directions from his superiors, but there were no criminal or civil actions against him at that time, the statement said.


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