Accused Priest Rogers Kills Self

By Tim Tesconi and Eileen Clegg
Press Democrat
November 14, 1995

The Rev. John Rogers, under orders to return to Santa Rosa to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after being accused of molesting a teen-age boy, was found dead of suicide Monday in Belgium, where he was attending a university.

"We're all shocked by the news," said Bishop Patrick Ziemann, who was visibly shaken and did not wish to comment further.

The molestation accusations against the Catholic priest became public earlier this month when Patrick McBride, 36, said he was molested by Rogers in 1976 in the rectory of St. Bernard's Church in Eureka.

When Ziemann heard of the accusations, he removed Rogers from his post at Humboldt State University in August and sent him to Belgium to study for his master's degree in theology.

The bishop in an earlier interview said he did not take further action at that time because he needed time to investigate the matter. McBride's was the only complaint of its kind Ziemann had heard against Rogers, who had been a priest for many years.

Ziemann on Nov. 4 ordered Rogers back to Santa Rosa for psychiatric evaluation at the request of McBride.

McBride could not be reached for comment Monday.

Rogers' body was found Monday in a forest. Authorities in Louveigne, Belgium, would only confirm that a body had been discovered. But sources said Rogers had been missing two days when he was found and that his wrists had been cut.

The Rev. Thomas Devereaux, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Healdsburg, was stunned to learn of the suicide of his best friend.

"John was feeling very alone and very isolated," said Devereaux. "It was just very hard for him to accept these charges. He just didn't do it -- but he felt he was already condemned because of the accusation."

McBride said he was attending Camp St. Michael in Mendocino County in 1976 when Rogers came for a visit. The Rev. Gary Timmons asked McBride to go back to Eureka with Rogers to work on a project, he said.

Timmons arrived at the Sonoma County Jail on Monday night to face 17 felony counts of molestation.

At St. Bernard's, McBride and Rogers were drinking alcohol and when McBride started to pass out, Rogers suggested he go to sleep, McBride said. He said he passed out and when he awoke, he was being sodomized by Rogers.

He said he kept his secret for 13 years before telling his mother in 1988. He didn't approach Ziemann with his complaint until about two months ago, when he learned that Rogers was still working with youths at the Cardinal Newman Center at Humboldt State.

Devereaux said he talked with Rogers as early as last Wednesday and Rogers insisted he was innocent. "He was just so overwrought by this because he didn't do it," Devereaux said. "We were encouraging him to meet his accuser face to face and request due process according to the provisions of canon law."

At the Cardinal Newman Center, where Rogers was chaplain for 12 years before he left for Belgium in August 1995, students were gathering together to support each other and to come to terms with Rogers' death, said Deacon Ken Bond.

Rogers' students and colleagues were in "a great deal of pain" as they grappled with the loss, Bond said.

"John did a very fine job while he was here and he'll be sorely missed," Bond said.

He said he had spoken with Rogers regularly by telephone after Rogers went to Belgium.

"I had the sense things were going reasonably well," Bond said.

He said he believes the suicide was related to the molestation allegations.

Devereaux, who has known Rogers for 27 years, said he never spoke of suicide as an alternative for himself.

"John was an excellent priest and touched the lives of thousands of people. He was conscientious and caring and very, very bright," Devereaux said. "He had many interests and friends all over.

"This is very hard for me. We were best friends," Devereaux said.

Rogers, 48, was ordained in Santa Rosa in 1976. Services will be held for him in Medford, Ore., where his family resides.


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