Accuser Disputes Priest's Suicide Note

By Carol Benfell and Tim Tesconi
Press Democrat
November 17, 1995

In a suicide note just made public, the Rev. John Rogers wrote he never met the man he is accused of molesting, but the alleged victim said Thursday that Rogers has known of his charges for several years.

Patrick McBride, 36, who says Rogers sodomized him when he was 15, expressed sympathy for the priest's family and sorrow at Rogers' death.

"This is very, very hard for me. I have no sense of relief or joy," said McBride, whose molestation charge prompted Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann of the Santa Rosa diocese to recall Rogers from Belgium 10 days ago. "Father Rogers has a family and my heart goes out to them and to all the people he helped."

"My only goal was to be sure no one else would get hurt. I wanted him to get treatment," McBride said.

A copy of what appears to be a suicide note written by Rogers, 46, was obtained Thursday from the Rev. Thomas Deveraux, pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Healdsburg and a close friend of Rogers.

Deveraux received his copy of the note from Rogers' father, Donn Rogers of Medford, Ore.

The elder Rogers said the note was faxed to him by the administrator of the University of Louveigne, who had been given the note by police as part of the investigation.

"It was my son's handwriting. There is no doubt about that," Rogers said.

The university told him the note was found with Rogers' wallet and passport in the room he rented in Louveigne, where he was studying, the elder Rogers said.

In the four-sentence note, dated Nov. 7 and written on lined paper, Rogers wrote he has "no recollection of ever even meeting a person Pat McBride -- much less molesting him."

"The pain and embarrassment are too much for me to handle," the note continued. "I am very sorry that my friends and family have been hurt so badly."

But McBride said Rogers has known of his claim of molestation since 1988, when he and his parents first told the diocese about Rogers' actions. In 1990, after seeing no response, McBride again called on the diocese to take some action to keep Rogers away from children.

In 1992, while he was an employee at the diocese, McBride asked Monsignor Thomas Keyes what had been done.

"He told me Rogers had been sent to St. Mary's Hospital for a three-week evaluation and that the report had come back saying he was sick," McBride said.

"Monsignor Keyes said he and Bishop John Steinbock called Rogers to the chancery and told him the results of the tests. He said Rogers didn't deny or admit anything but started crying uncontrollably," McBride said.

Keyes told McBride that from that time on, a deacon or a priest had always been with Rogers to ensure he was not alone with youths, McBride said.

"I believe that Rogers knew my name," McBride said.

McBride said he had been reluctant to talk publicly about his previous complaints to the diocese but felt he had little choice after Rogers denied knowing him in the note.

Ziemann, en route to Belgium to bring back Rogers' body for burial, could not be reached for comment. However, in a previous interview, he acknowledged Rogers was evaluated psychologically in response to McBride's complaints. He said the results of the test were confidential.

Keyes, who is in ill health, could not be reached for comment.

McBride, 36, has not commented publicly on the Rogers matter since Nov. 4, when he went to Ziemann to seek Rogers' return. He spoke Thursday in response to repeated phone inquiries.

He said his family's love and support had been helping him through the last few days.

McBride said he had hoped that when Rogers returned, he and the priest could meet face to face in Ziemann's presence, that he could explain how much the incident had hurt him and that some mutual healing could have taken place.

"Perhaps we could have helped each other get past the guilt and shame on both sides," he said. "Now that is lost. There is a void."

"All he had to do was come back and challenge me" if Rogers thought McBride was lying, McBride said.

McBride said he was 15 when the Rev. Gary Timmons, now facing 17 child molestation charges, introduced him to Rogers at Camp St. Michael, a church-run youth camp near Leggett.

The youth went with Rogers to Eureka to work on what Timmons had told him would be "a special project," McBride said. Instead, Rogers got him drunk and sodomized him, McBride said.

McBride went to Ziemann in August, the first time he had spoken to the bishop about Rogers, when he learned Rogers still had ready access to young people through his post at the Newman Center at Humboldt State University.

Ziemann then sent Rogers to Belgium to study at a Catholic university while he investigated the matter. On Nov. 4, McBride asked Ziemann to bring Rogers back to this country and the bishop complied.

Rogers' body was found Monday in a forest near Louveigne. Authorities would only confirm he had been found dead. Sources said he had been missing two days when he was found and his wrists had been cut.

Commissioner Berckmans of the Louveigne Police Department said authorities could not confirm or deny the existence of the suicide note because Belgian law forbids discussion of evidence during a police investigation.

Donn Rogers, who had intended to accompany Ziemann to Belgium but stayed home for health reasons, said a Catholic funeral service has been planned for his son at 2 p.m. Wednesday at St. Bernard's Church in Eureka. Burial will be in the priests' section of St. Bernard's Church. Deveraux, Rogers' friend for 27 years, will conduct the service.

PHOTO: b&w mug: Rogers

Infobox: Rogers' suicide note

7 November 1995

All I can say is that I have no recollection of ever even meeting a person Pat McBride -- much less molesting him.

The pain and embarrassment are too much for me to handle.

I am very sorry that my friends and family have been hurt so badly.

Please pray for me. John.


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