Police find child porn and drugs in an Illinois Catholic Church

Police find child porn and drugs in an Illinois Catholic Church January 11, 2018

Catholic priest Gerald R Hechenberger, associate pastor of the Holy Childhood Church and school in Mascoutah, Illinois, was arrested this week and charged with 16 counts of possessing child pornography.
Hechenberger, 54, also was charged with possession of methamphetamine.
Belleville police issued a statement saying Hechenberger was identified as being in possession of multiple images of child pornography where the photographed victims were under the age of 13.
Belleville Police Master Sgt Todd Keilbach said detectives initiated the investigation based on a cyber tip from the organization Internet Crimes Against Children.
Police executed a search warrant on Monday morning at the Mascoutah church. During the search, investigators seized multiple electronic devices and found drug paraphernalia, meth, and several images and videos of child pornography, according to the press release.
Hechenberger was arrested and taken to the Belleville Police Department. His bail is set at $2 million.
The press release said:

It is unknown at this time if Hechenberger produced any of the images himself, or if he has had any inappropriate contact with children directly. Although Belleville Police do not have knowledge of any additional victims, we release this information and encourage parents to speak to their children if they had any contact with Hechenberger. Parents or guardians should immediately report any suspicions to the Belleville Police Department.

A statement from Bishop Edward K Braxton said:

This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger. 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.

Hechenberger also is an associate pastor at St Pancratius Parish in Fayetteville and St Liborius Parish in St Libory.
Holy Childhood School parents received an email from the Principal Claudia Dougherty, saying Hechenberger was being investigated.
According to published reports, in 2011, Hechenberger abruptly took a leave of absence from his position as pastor at St John the Baptist parish in Smithton. In a letter from the Rev John McEvilly, Vicar General of the Belleville Diocese, church officials were told the leave was to address:

Very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges.

In a letter published in a church bulletin in 2011, Hechenberger wrote that he was struggling with depression.

The medicines the doctors have me on make me very tired and some days it is a struggle to just get out of bed. As a consequence, I don’t feel that I am giving you the amount of pastoral care that you deserve.

Hechenberger wrote at the time that he was not resigning, but taking a leave of absence.

I told (Bishop Edward Braxton) that I would like to take some time off from my regular priestly duties and find a good counselor or wellness program to join.

McEvilly’s letter also stated:

In the present climate, it is important for you to know that the serious matters we are addressing do not involve the abuse of a minor.

Hechenberger has been charged with the following:

• Eight counts of dissemination of child pornography
• Seven counts of possession of child pornography (photos)
• One count of possession of child pornography (video)
• Possession of methamphetamine.

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  • Farmer Giles

    Any one surprised by this?
    I am surprised how few we get to hear about.
    The RCC is riddled with people like this from top to bottom. Sorry.

  • AgentCormac

    ‘This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger.’
    I see that on this occasion the church is distancing itself as far as it possibly can from the criminal involved. I guess it must have been too late to whisk him away to Vatican City for a lifetime of reflection and prayer.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    ‘This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger.’
    But… for the kids? Not so much.
    Notice how these things rarely show any concern for the kids?

  • lucy1

    Mc-Evilly??

  • barriejohn

    If these allegations are true, let’s hope that he soon feels able to make his confession and seek forgiveness, so that he can continue with his good work!

  • Broga

    A good man seduced by the devil. Soon, he will have discovered the saving grace of the Lord Jesus and be back helping others to avoid the snares of Satan.

  • StephenJP

    And when he first took leave of absence in 2011, to address “very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges”, what did the RCC, and in particular Bishop Braxton, do? Very little, it seems; and they were apparently happy to welcome him back a bit later.
    And what would have happened if the internet watchdog hadn’t spotted what was going on? Nothing, presumably. And, funny old thing, the guy in charge is the same Bishop Braxton. I do hope he is asked to give evidence.

  • Laura Roberts

    @lucy1: having started to watch “McMafia” on BBC, I thought precisely the same thing.
    “McEvilly” sounds Dickensian, and wholly appropriate.