Report: Accused Priests Collecting Mass Stipends—UPDATED

From WLS in Chicago: 

Roman Catholic priests who are sex abusers are being paid to handle prayer requests from unsuspecting families.

For centuries, the Catholic faithful have arranged masses for sick relatives, deceased loved ones or in the memory of friends. They’re called “intentions” and usually Catholics offer a small donation. The I-Team has discovered some intentions are being farmed out to priests who are sex offenders; men banned from regular ministry- now paid to pray- and some of the faithful are not informed.

The bells tolled on Father Donald O’Connor’s career in 2002, when he was terminated as Pastor of Assumption Parish here in Coal City.

These newly-obtained records from the Diocese of Joliet reveal church findings that O’Connor had sexually abused many boys in numerous parishes.

The priest was quoted once as saying “It’s better than shacking up with a woman.”

One of his victims committed suicide according to the diocese files.

But just one month after O’Connor was permanently removed from any public ministry, he was sent a letter from the diocese chancellor asking if he was “in need of mass stipends…just let us know the number you would need…and a check will be issued every three months.”

“Why on earth are church officials coddling and being concerned about giving enough money to sexual predators instead of getting those sexual predators indicted and jailed? That would be the appropriate response,” said Barbara Blaine, of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

The pay to pray “benefits” continue to this day- allowed by “canon law” according to this statement tonight from the Joliet Diocese.

“Like all priests, they [predator priests] may offer a mass for a specific person or cause, and they may receive the small stipend if one is offered, usually $10.”

It can add up.

The payments from something called a “restricted funds account” to Father Don O’connor show the priest/abuser handled hundreds of families’ mass intentions and was paid thousands of dollars before he died- despite being officially “removed from ministry.”

There is no evidence in these diocesan records that any parishioners were ever notified.

Read more. 

UPDATE: The Diocese of Joliet has released a statement on the matter:

The Diocese of Joliet does not provide compensation for any priest who is permanently removed from public ministry because of a credible or substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Any benefits these priests receive, such as a pension, are mandated by federal, state or canon law.
To assist with the spiritual needs of people, priests routinely offer Mass for specific intentions.
Priests who are removed from public ministry because of sexual abuse of minors may not celebrate Mass in public, but they are
not prohibited from doing so privately.
Like all priests, they may offer a Mass for a specific person or cause, and they may receive the small stipend if one is offered, usually $10.
And a priest reader wrote me an e-mail to point out:
Priests are suspended from public ministry as soon as they are accused of sexual abuse and it can be months, if not years, before their innocence or guilt is finally decided by a judge and jury. If they have not been suspended ‘a divinis’ from all priestly faculties, both in private as well as in public, they then not only can, but they should continue to celebrated daily Mass privately – presuming, of course, that they are in the state of grace. By Church law, a priest who celebrates a Mass for an intention for which an offering has been made  has a right to that offering.
The efficacy of the Mass does not depend on the sanctity of the minister. A Mass celebrated in private by an accused priest (whether guilty or innocent) has the same validity and effect as a Mass celebrated in public by a saint.

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