Mother of Son Fathered by Priest Accuses Church of Abandoning Her Child

October 20, 2009,0,1332744.story

[with video]

O'FALLON, MO ( - An O'Fallon, Missouri woman who says a Franciscan priest, previously based in St. Louis, fathered her child is accusing the church of abandoning her when she needs them the most. The child is now gravely ill and the priest has been suspended. Father Henry Willenborg has been at a Wisconsin catholic church for four years. Officials there say he recently admitted to fathering a child but was suspended after questions came up about another relationship he may have had, possibly with a minor.

Meanwhile, the O'Fallon woman, Pat Bond, says the church has not done enough for her terminally ill son. She spoke out even though she signed a legally binding confidentiality agreement.

"No, they haven't made life easy," said Pat as she talked about dealing with the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart based in South St. Louis. She said Willenborg, one of the order's priests, fathered her son Nathan Halbach in Quincy, Illinois. Pat showed us several pictures of her and Willenborg together including a photo of Willenborg baptizing Nathan. Pat said she and Willenborg had a relationship for several years that eventually ended. She told us the church has paid between $100,000 and $150,000 to help support Nathan under three different agreements. But Bond told us there have been numerous legal battles and delays from the church in payments.

"It's certainly been unpleasant and not a peaceful relationship in any regard," said Bond

Now, Nathan- just 22 years old- is critically ill with a rare form of brain cancer. He was too sick to come to our interview. Pat said Willenborg has not visited Nathan since he was diagnosed with cancer when he was 19. And she questions whether the Province is paying everything it should under the latest agreement. She believes the Province should do more out of moral concern for her dying son.

Bond says, "They're a church. They're filled with passion, they're supposed to teach love and care and they turned their back on him."

The Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart, Father William Spencer, issued a statement reading in part "The Franciscans accepted responsibility for supporting the child at the outset, and have provided him significant support? Our payments have exceeded legal requirements. We continue to be willing to provide appropriate financial support for the young man who is now 22."

Pat feels betrayed and has a message for Willenborg.

"Where were you, that's what Nathan wanted to know; 13 years where were you?" explained a tearful Pat.

Willenborg has been the priest at Our Lady of the Lake, a Catholic church in Ashland, Wisconsin. The diocese which oversees that area suspended Willenborg after the story involving Nathan was published Friday in the New York Times.

SNAP- the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also called for Willenborg's suspension.

The church in Wisconsin says the suspension will last until the allegations involving the minor are resolved.


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