Metro East Priest Arrested in Child Porn Case After Cyber Tip to Police

Hechenberger was charged with eight counts of possession of child pornography…

In MASCOUTAH,  Illinois,  A Metro East Catholic priest was charged Tuesday with 16 felony child porn charges, along with a count of meth possession.

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 The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, an associate pastor at several Metro East parishes, was charged with possession and dissemination of child porn images and possession of meth.The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, an associate pastor at several Metro East parishes, was charged with possession and dissemination of child porn images and possession of meth.

The Rev. Gerald R. Hechenberger is an associate pastor of Holy Childhood of Jesus Parish in MascoutahSt. Pancratius Parish in Fayetteville and St. Liborius Parish in St. Libory.

Authorities got an online tip about Hechenberger and launched an investigation that included search warrants, online investigation and surveillance. A search warrant was served Monday morning at the Holy Childhood rectory. Several electronic devices were seized and Hechenberger was arrested.

On Tuesday January 9, 2018, Hechenberger was charged with eight counts of dissemination of child pornography, eight counts of possession of child pornography and one count of possession of methamphetamine.

It is unknown if Hechenberger produced any of the images himself, or if he has had any inappropriate contact with children directly, authorities said. Belleville police said parents or guardians to speak to their children if they had any contact with Hechenberger and immediately report any suspicious conduct.

Police said Hechenberger is the only person under investigation at Holy Childhood.

 

He was found in possession of several child porn images and videos that depict children younger than 13, police said. Hechenberger also had less than five grams of meth.

The Diocese of Belleville responded to Hechenberger’s arrest in a statement Monday. Monsignor John Myler, the media contact for the diocese, emailed the diocese’s statement to the Post-Dispatch but was not immediately available after charges were filed Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger,” the statement from Monday said. “At this point, the Diocese has no reason to believe that any parishioners are affected by this matter. The Diocese is awaiting an update on information from the civil authorities, and has assured them of the Diocese’s full cooperation. Beyond requesting your prayers for Father Hechenberger, the Diocese will make no further comment at this time.”

The Post-Dispatch reported in 2011 that Hechenberger abruptly took a leave of absence as priest at St. John the Baptist parish in Smithton. A letter circulated by the Belleville diocese at the time said he was taking the leave to address “very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges.”The letter, sent to priests and deacons, didn’t directly state the source of the challenges. Myler could not be reached Tuesday to clarify what those challenges were or how they were resolved.

~ Reported By 

Erin Heffernan • 314-340-8145

@erinheff on Twitter

eheffernan@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

 

Cardinal Bernard Law, who was the Archbishop of Boston when unpunished sexual misconduct within the Catholic Church surfaced, has died in Rome

the victims of sexual abuse were outraged because it gave Law a second career and a golden parachute that allowed him to stay close to the center of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.

Reported by Phillip Pullella~ Reuters

Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, who died on Wednesday, resigned in disgrace after covering up years of sexual abuse of children by priests and whose name became a byword for scandal in the Catholic Church. 

The Vatican announced his death just before dawn on 20 December 2017.

via FTP

The telegram of condolences Pope Francis sent to the dean of the College of Cardinals was unusually short and bland compared to those for other cardinals before.

Francis said he was praying that the merciful God would “welcome him in eternal peace.” The pope did not mention that Law had been Archbishop of Boston and a brief Vatican biography made no mention of the circumstances of his resignation 15 years ago.

Law was Archbishop of Boston, one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses, for 18 years when Pope John Paul reluctantly accepted his resignation on Dec. 13, 2002, after a tumultuous year in church history.

Bernard Law

A succession of devastating news stories by Boston Globe reporters showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years under Law’s tenure without parishioners or law authorities being informed.

“No words can convey the pain these survivors and their loved ones suffered,” SNAP, a victims’ group, said.

“Survivors of child sexual assault in Boston, who were first betrayed by Law’s cover-up of sex crimes and then doubly betrayed by his subsequent promotion to Rome, were those most hurt,” SNAP said in a statement.

Law’s resignation sent shockwaves through the American church and had a trickle down effect around the world as the cover-up techniques used in Boston were discovered to have been used in country after country.

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The story of how the Globe team brought the scandal to light in a city where few wanted to cross the politically powerful church was told in the 2015 film “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The situation in Boston turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of abuse and its cover-up, where churchmen preferred protecting the reputation of the institution rather than the innocence of children.

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Thousands of cases came to light around the world as investigations encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the church’s reputation in places such as Ireland, and forcing it to pay some $2 billion in compensation.

 

“As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences,” Law’s successor in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said in a statement.

Six months after his resignation, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office announced that Law and others would not face criminal charges.

After a period in a monastery in the United States, Law moved to Rome.

 In 2004 Pope John Paul appointed him to be archpriest of the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four major basilica’s of Christendom, whose gold leaf ceiling is said to be made from the first batch of the precious metal Columbus brought back from the Americas. He is likely to be buried there.

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In relative terms it was an immense fall from grace. Such posts are symbolic and ceremonial. But the victims of sexual abuse were outraged because it gave Law a second career and a golden parachute that allowed him to stay close to the center of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.

He also maintained the rank of cardinal and participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict in 2005.  Before he became ill, Law was a regular on the diplomatic circuit, attending receptions, including many in the gardens of the US Embassy to the Vatican.

While Law was an awkward presence at US receptions for a few years after his resignation, at Italian events he was treated with the same effusive obsequiousness bestowed on all cardinals – something Law appeared to enjoy.

 He always declined to talk about events in Boston. “I’m retired from that,” he told a reporter at one reception.

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 Photo credit: The Boston Globe via Getty Images 

Cardinal O’Malley, Law’s successor, heads a Vatican commission advising Pope Francis on how to root out sexual abuse in the Church.

But the credibility of the commission, which was formed in 2014, has been hurt by the resignation of two high-level lay members who have accused the Vatican of dragging its feet.

 The terms of most members expired recently and it is not clear what Pope Francis will do with it.

Last September, Francis, addressing the commission, said the Catholic Church had moved too slowly to confront abuse.

“When consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problems also arrive late. I am aware of this difficulty but it is reality and I say it plainly: We arrived late. The old practice of moving people around and not confronting the problem made consciences fall asleep,” the pope said.

Law was born on Nov. 4, 1931, in Torreon, Mexico, the son of a US Army official and a musician. He graduated from Harvard University and was ordained a priest in 1961.

His first assignment was in Mississippi, where he received death threats for championing civil rights. As bishop of Springfield–Cape Girardeau in Missouri, he opened a home for battered women and a center to help Vietnamese boat people.