Pope Defrocks Former Illinois Priest

Associated Press, carried in Washington Post
April 24, 2007

Belleville, Ill. — Pope Benedict XVI defrocked a priest accused of sexually molesting teenage boys decades ago while directing a Catholic youth camp, church officials said Monday.

Robert Vonnahmen, 76, was removed from the priesthood "for the good of the Church," Bishop Edward Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville said in a statement.

Vonnahmen was removed from priestly duties in 1993 by one of Braxton's predecessors after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused minors. But Vonnahmen, who has denied the allegations, remained a priest because only the pope can defrock clergy.

In 1993, a man sued the diocese in southern Illinois for negligence, saying Vonnahmen sodomized him in 1981, when he was 13, at the diocese-owned Camp Ondessonk.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit in 1995, ruling the statute of limitations had expired.

There was no Illinois telephone listing for Vonnahmen.

A woman who answered the telephone at a St. Louis-area travel agency where he once worked said Vonnahmen was retired from that business. She said she did not know how he could be reached.


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