Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki Tuesday defended the handling of sex abuse cases involving church personnel, and said that a news conference held last week by two groups critical of the diocese caught him off guard. Paprocki also said that the Litchfield phone number assigned to six priests withdrawn from their Chicago parishes that appeared in an Official Catholic Directory in the 1990s was apparently a data-entry or computer-generated error. He said the priests were never assigned to the Springfield diocese nor were they ever licensed by the bishop for the ministry in this diocese.
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He criticized the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for its approach to what it considered a potential danger, saying he wasn’t contacted before the group’s news conference to explain the phone number.
“There was no advance notice of this press conference,” he said. “They did not ask for an explanation beforehand or at all.”
David Clohessy, director of SNAP, said the diocese wasn’t contacted beforehand because “typically and unfortunately, Bishop Paprocki previously has ignored our letters and wouldn’t respond to our requests.”
“What works is making direct, public appeals to victims,” Clohessy said.
SNAP and Call to Action of Central Illinois also alleged that two “predator priests” — the Rev. Frank R. Martinez and the Rev. James Fitzgerald — spent time in the Springfield diocese.
Paprocki said that over the last several days, he has asked his staff to investigate SNAP’s allegations.
“I want to know,” he said. “I wasn’t here, and I asked them to do the research. I didn’t want to be surprised.”