Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

September 19, 2013

Local pastor temporarily withdraws following sexual misconduct allegations


Effingham Daily News

---- — SPRINGFIELD — Following an allegation of clerical sexual misconduct with a minor said to have occurred over 30 years ago, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has temporarily withdrawn from ministry.

Father Robert “Bud” DeGrand, pastor of parishes in Sigel, Neoga, Green Creek and Lillyville, is cooperating with the recommendation of the Diocesan Review Board that he temporarily withdraw from public ministry and from his ecclesiastical residence pending further investigation.

The alleged abuse was said to have occurred in 1980 when Father DeGrand was assigned to Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville.

“The Springfield diocese takes such allegations very seriously,” said Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. “We have a strict Policy on Sexual Abuse of Minors by Church Personnel that reflects our desire to safeguard the welfare of minors in our parishes, institutions and programs. It also reflects our determination to deal properly and decisively with any allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”

The allegation was received by the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator on Sept. 9. On Sept. 13, the Diocesan Review Board found the allegation to have “a semblance of truth” and recommended that Bishop Paprocki begin a preliminary investigation.

As required by the diocesan policy, the diocese has notified the Morgan County States Attorney, where the alleged abuse is said to have occurred, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The allegation was communicated to Father DeGrand Sept. 15 by Msgr. Carl Kemme, vicar general of the diocese, and Father David Hoefler, the local dean. On Sept. 18, Bishop Paprocki, Msgr. Kemme and Father Hoefler met with parishioners of the four parishes in a meeting held at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sigel to inform them of the reason for Father DeGrand’s temporary withdrawal from ministry.

The purpose of temporary withdrawal is to provide quickly an opportunity to assess the risk to minors, the urgent needs of the church and the situation of the accused priest, said Bishop Paprocki.

“It involves the cleric withdrawing himself at once from public ministry until a more definitive determination of the allegation can be made,” he said. “It is not a judgment of guilt, and it is not equivalent to a canonical suspension or any other penal sanction. It does not affect any ecclesiastical office that he holds; thus, he remains pastor until such time as a definitive determination can be made regarding the allegation.”

During Father DeGrand’s absence, Father Sunder Ery has been named temporary parochial administrator of the four parishes. Since 2011, Father Ery has served as parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua and Sacred Heart parishes in Effingham and at Annunciation Parish in Shumway.

Father DeGrand, age 61, was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1980. In addition to his present assignment, he has served parishes in Jacksonville, Winchester, Bluffs and Granite City.

Bishop Paprocki says that anyone with knowledge of even a single instance of sexual abuse of a minor should contact local law enforcement authorities or call the diocesan victim assistance coordinator, Patricia Kornfeld, at (217) 321-1155.

For more information about the diocesan policies and safe environment programs, visit the diocesan website at www.dio.org/safeenvironment.

The Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is 130 parishes in 28 counties in central Illinois.