Former priest in sex abuse case to be free again
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Mark Campobello, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of two females under the age of 16, will be released July 28 from the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois Department of Corrections officials say. This will mark his third release from prison since 2008, when he was first paroled.
About two months after his initial release in 2008, Campobello was briefly returned to custody after being found guilty of violating conditions of parole by deviating from a predetermined route between his home and job. A year later, he returned to prison again after losing the permanent residence required of parolees.
Sharyn Elman, chief public information officer for the Illinois Department of Corrections, advised: “He’s being discharged completely on the 28th, so there is no new residence that has to be established. He has served his time, his sentence and his parole.”
The only condition placed on Campobello’s release by the Prisoner Review Board is that he registers as a sex offender for life with the Illinois State Police, Elman said.
Campobello, 45, was ordained in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford in 1991 and assigned to the Holy Family Parish until 1994. He was then transferred to St. Peter Parish in Geneva, but returned to Rockford in 1995 as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of St. Peter. In 1996, Campobello was assigned to Aurora’s Holy Angels Parish, and he was named assistant principal and spiritual director of Aurora Central Catholic High School the following year. During this time, he also served in Geneva. In 2000, Campobello was assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle in Crystal Lake, but transferred the following year to Belvidere’s St. James Parish, where he served until the time of his arrest in December 2002.
According to court documents, prior to his arrest, Campobello also spent time undergoing treatment at St. Luke Institute in Maryland, a mental health facility for Catholic ministers, at the direction of the diocese.
The frequency of Campobello’s reassignments, combined with his treatment in Maryland, was suspect to plaintiffs in the civil case that was filed in 2004. The Catholic Diocese of Rockford settled the case for $2.2 million in 2007 before it could go to trial.
Although he’d been relieved of ministerial duties at the time of his arrest, Campobello was not defrocked by the Vatican until 2005.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), based in Chicago, wants to see Campobello remain behind bars, however.
SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy alleged: “Campobello is a young, healthy and dangerous predator. Given the chance, he will almost certainly molest again.
“There’s really just one hope now,” he added. “That others who saw, suspected or suffered Campobello’s crimes will call police and start prosecuting him for other crimes. We’re confident more victims are out there. It’s just a question of them finding the courage to contact law enforcement so that other kids will be spared years of torment.”
Clohessy said the only surefire way to safeguard children from known sexual predators is to keep them incarcerated.
Who knew what, and when?
According to the daily, Bishop Thomas Doran has stated he was not aware of any abuse until Campobello’s arrest in December 2002, despite statements from prosecutors that diocese officials had been conducting interviews regarding the case since the previous October—before police had been notified.
Campobello’s abuse of two teen-age girls is believed to have occurred between 1999 and 2001. The civil case filed by the victims against Campobello, the diocese and Bishop Doran sought, in large part, to determine whether diocese officials had been aware of Campobello’s conduct prior to his arrest.
According to case documents, at least two school teachers had been aware of the abuse in the 1990s, but did not report it to police until years later.
The first victim reportedly confided in a Geneva teacher named Alison Ward that she and Campobello were involved in a relationship. According to a police report filed three years later, Campobello was a friend of the girl’s family from the time she was in fourth grade. The report notes that Ward had witnessed the victim leaving school with Campobello in 1994, which she said she reported to the principal. Ward indicated she was unaware if the principal had acted on her report, but noted that Campobello transferred to Rockford at the end of the school year, then to Aurora. She said the girl and Campobello remained in contact, however. In 1997, Campobello returned to live at St. Peter rectory in Geneva, while working in Aurora.
In the winter of 1999, according to what the eighth-grade victim told Ward, Campobello accompanied the girl’s family on a trip to Galena. During the trip, Campobello was reported to have kissed the girl on the lips. Ward told police the victim said the two quickly developed a relationship, and that Campobello would fondle the girl when she visited him at the rectory, or in her own home. Reportedly, Campobello told the girl he would leave the priesthood to marry her when she was old enough.
As the relationship neared an end in 1999, the victim told Ward she suspected Campobello was involved with another girl at Aurora Central Catholic High School. According to Ward’s statement, the girl believed he may have been involved with a total of three underage girls.
Ward reportedly agreed to drive the girl to Aurora to confront Campobello as a means to bring closure to their relationship. Although Ward did not notify law enforcement, she said she urged the victim to tell her parents. She did not tell her parents until two-and-a-half years later, however.
Another teacher Ward had discussed the circumstances with, Barbara Houston, allegedly alluded to an improper relationship when speaking with Monsignor Joe Jarmoluk. At the time, according to reports, Houston provided no names to Jarmoluk, but the monsignor reportedly told Ward it was her duty to report any abuse she had knowledge of. It wasn’t until 2002 that Houston was willing to name names to Jarmoluk, however. Houston explained she’d only in 2002 learned that her teaching position meant she was a “mandated reporter” required to disclose possible abuse.
With Ward willing to testify, Jarmoluk contacted diocese officials in Rockford. The following week, Monsignors David Kagan and Eric Barr visited the St. Peter Parish to interview Ward, in whom the victim had confided about three years prior.
The same week, diocese officials contacted the victim’s family regarding the report of sexual abuse. The girl’s parents, however, opted to seek legal representation rather than discuss the case with the church.
Diocese unwilling to release personnel records
Campobello was arrested by Geneva police in December 2002, initially charged with 15 counts of sexual abuse and assault on a minor, to which he pleaded “not guilty” the following month.
Also in 2002, but prior to Campobello’s arrest, Doran was one of 15 bishops appointed to the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse to revise the church’s policies for such matters.
As the state prepared its case in Kane County in 2003, the diocese refused to turn Campobello’s personnel records over to prosecutors, despite a court order. The decree by Judge Timothy Sheldon did not order the release of medical and mental health records, however. Unwilling to release the subpoenaed personnel documents, the diocese chose to be held in civil contempt to challenge the order at the appellate level on a First Amendment basis. The diocese maintained that the state had no authority to review a religious entity’s governance—a position taken by Catholic bishops as sexual abuse cases among the clergy became national news.
Barbara Blaine, a SNAP leader, later accused Doran of being committed to secrecy, not transparency, as the church tried to mend from the nationwide abuse scandal.
“Bishop Doran should stop trying to use constitutional protections regarding separation of church and state to keep records hidden regarding felony criminal sexual abuse of children. The constitution was never intended to be used as an excuse to cover up sex crimes,” Blaine stated. “The victims deserve to know the truth. The larger Catholic community can only begin to heal when the truth is exposed and confronted. The bishop should stop using every conceivable legal maneuver to keep secrets hidden and just cooperate with exposing the truth. The victims have been through so much that the least the diocese should do is to cooperate with the turning over of documents and information relating to priests sexually abusing children in the Rockford Diocese.”
In 2003, Barr explained: “The Church of the Diocese of Rockford has decided to withhold certain documentation in the criminal case against Father Campobello. Some may conclude that we are hiding things. But we are not. We are protecting the right of the Church to have independence from the state, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“We are exercising the Church’s right to protection from the state’s intrusion into the internal matters of the Church,” his article in the diocese publication The Observer continued. “The State must not be permitted to review the Catholic Church’s policies and practices on governance of its clergy and religious. For what will the next encroachment be?”
Barr asserted the church is capable of policing itself by removing alleged abusers from their assignments, and that the diocese would “actively help to bring to justice those who break the law of this State, and/or the law of the Catholic Church.”
Meantime, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating resigned in 2003 from the U.S. Catholic bishops’ national review board, where he was chairman of a committee dealing with the church’s response to the nationwide sex scandal. Keating likened the bishops’ “code of silence” to that of the mafia’s “omerta.”
“To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away—that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church,” Keating said.
Court rules records are not privileged
The state’s Second Appellate Court eventually upheld Sheldon’s order for the release of documents pertaining to any previous misconduct, as well as records indicating the reasons for Campobello’s treatment at St. Luke.
Justice Jack O’Malley ruled, “Merely because Canon 489 is controlling the internal operation of the affairs of the church does not mean that it permits evidence pertaining to sexual molestation of children by priests to be secreted and shielded from discovery that is otherwise proper.”
O’Malley added, “There is no potential for state subversion of religious objectives.”
Sheldon ultimately allowed the documents to remain private after Campobello accepted a plea bargain, however.
Meantime, a second victim, a female student at Aurora Central Catholic, had come forward in October 2003 with additional allegations against Campobello. A grand jury indicted him on three more charges. As part of the plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of the 14- and 15-year-old girls in May 2004.
Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason responded: “These are two very serious cases and we appreciate the courage it took for these two young women to come forward. We believe this guilty plea represents justice.”
But it would also mean Campobello’s personnel records would never see the light of day.
He was sentenced to consecutive four-year prison terms for each count, but began earning day-for-day credits toward early release through good behavior, corrections officials said.
In a written statement, Doran said: “Acts of sexual abuse to minors are an abomination always, and even one instance of such a deplorable act is one too many. I am relieved that this case has come to a resolution, and it is my fervent hope that we can now direct our focus on healing the wounds caused by such abhorrent behavior and working to ensure that such gravely sinful acts never occur again in our Catholic family.”
Records never released by diocese
The summer of 2004, the two victims filed their civil suits, which again tried to force the diocese to release personnel documents pertaining to Campobello. The case alleged the diocese was negligent by not acting upon warning signs that Campobello posed a risk to children.
Soon after, the diocese began negotiating a settlement with the plaintiffs, a lawyer for whom suggested the diocese would rather settle the case than release the personnel documents for the trial, but no figure would be reached for another three years.
In May 2007, the parties agreed to a $2.2 million settlement. Insurance covered most of the church’s cost, but $500,000 came from diocese reserves.
A diocese statement by spokesman Penny Wiegert indicated: “Although the settlement amounts were a heavy burden for the diocese, the diocese owed restorative justice to the two women for their injuries. The Rockford Diocese reaffirms its pledge and commitment to ensure a safe environment for children and young people in its churches and schools, and restates its special care for and commitment to reaching out to victims of sexual abuse.”
From the July 21-27, 2010 issue
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