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Victims Group: Springfield Diocese Tight-Lipped On Several Priests

Sam Dunklau
NPR Illinois
(From left) SNAP representatives John Freml and David Clohessy demonstrate outside Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 21

In the wake of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s Catholic Church investigation, a victim’s advocacy group is accusing the Catholic Diocese of Springfield of intentionally leaving the names of two predator priests off its public list. They say those names are part of the group of 500 Madigan uncovered.

Members of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, stood across the street from Springfield’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. They held up signs that had names like Father Henry Willenborg and Father Thomas Meyer on them. Both were priests in the Springfield diocese, both have well-documented abuse allegations against them.

John Freml was one of the demonstrators. He says he’s disappointed with how Bishop Thomas Paprocki has handled the scandal.

“I think the Bishop has just lost all moral credibility in this Diocese, given how he has postured himself in relation to this issue.”

SNAP representative David Clohessy demonstrated alongside Freml on Friday. He says the Church can’t be trusted to handle the matter.

“Victims, witnesses and whistle-blowers, first and foremost, have to come forward," he said. "But secondly, then police and prosecutors and lawmakers have to do their part to force these bishops to disgorge these files and expose these predators.”

SNAP wants Illinois lawmakers to loosen the statute of limitations for church abuse victims. Rather than trying to change the criminal statuette, Clohessy says changing the civil statute is more manageable. The groups says giving survivors a longer amount of time to come forward to the police will allow them to “have their day in court,” and hold Illinois bishops accountable.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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