Oblates Here Won't Talk about Bourque
Referred Detectives to Order's Lawyer in Washington, D.C.
By George Pawlaczyk
June 2, 2006
BELLEVILLE - The head of a local religious order declined on Thursday to meet with city police about the Rev. Real "Ray" Bourque, a retired priest who has admitted he molested boys in other states about 20 years ago.
Instead, the officers were referred to the religious order's Washington, D.C., lawyer.
Bourque, 78, lives at the St. Henry Oblate Retirement Home on North 60th Street, near Althoff Catholic High School.
Detectives on Thursday tried to meet informally with the Rev. Allen Maes, head of the local division of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to discuss ways to safeguard area children.
Belleville Police Chief Dave Ruebhausen has said that he is concerned, because in his experience pedophiles do not stop offending even when they are elderly.
Belleville Detective Beth Binnion, who heads the department's sex offender monitoring unit, and another officer were told when they showed up at Maes' office to call a Washington, D.C., lawyer.
"I was hoping we would be able to sit down and have a local conversation in the city of Belleville," Ruebhausen said. "I am disappointed."
Bourque is not required to register as a sex offender. He has declined to comment.
Dave Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said, "What reasonable person would tell a police chief 'No, I'm not even going to sit down and talk to you,' about an admitted child molester on your payroll?"
Clohessy, who is based in St. Louis, added, "The obvious question is, what are they hiding?"
Ruebhausen said he called Washington attorney Heather Pellegrino, who represents the Oblates in the United States, but said he could not discuss their conversation. In Belleville, the Oblates operate the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
On Tuesday, Maes told a News-Democrat reporter that he would meet with police.
"Anything to assuage the fear of the public," Maes said then. But on Thursday he told a reporter to get his questions answered by the Washington lawyer.
Bourque was never charged with a crime and has not been subject to an internal church tribunal, similar to those that led to 15 Belleville Diocese priests being removed from ministry in the early and mid-1990s for alleged sexual abuse of minors.
Those priests are not allowed to wear a priestly collar, say public Mass or be involved with public ministry. But they are not monitored by church officials or police.
Bourque also cannot wear a collar, perform a public Mass or be involved with any public ministry, Maes has said.
Bourque was transferred to Belleville in 2002 without the knowledge of then Bishop Wilton Gregory, now the archbishop of Atlanta. Gregory has said through a spokesman that had he known about Bourque he would have tried to prevent his transfer to Belleville.
While Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton has said he has no "direct authority" over a religious order priest, Catholic leaders in Boston acted quickly to remove Bourque from public ministry in the early 1990s.
That's when Boston Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law received a letter from one of Bourque's alleged victims. Law sent an emissary to meet with Oblate officials for New England. Bourque at that time was assigned as a priest in the Boston area.
Within months, Law's intervention led to Bourque being ordered to attend the church-operated St. Luke treatment center for pedophiles in Silver Spring, Md., according to a Boston court document from an unrelated lawsuit against another priest.
After several months, Bourque was released and returned to duties at a national Catholic cable television station in Alabama, but only as a behind-the-scenes staffer. While he was forbidden to work with youths, he nevertheless was a speaker at a retreat for teenagers shortly before he arrived in Belleville.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com and 239-2625.
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