The Vatican is looking into allegations of sexual abuse against a priest from Sparta.
William Rensing was placed on administrative leave from his duties at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish after accusations of abuse surfaced against him in the fall of 2002.
Rev. James Margason, the vicar general of the Belleville Diocese, said Monday that their 6-month-old investigation was transferred to the Vatican in March. Rensing’s innocence or guilt will now be decided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
Some believe it is the first time the Vatican has intervened in an investigation of sexual abuse by a priest in the United States.
Margason said the Vatican sent the southern Illinois diocese a letter stating that questions were raised regarding how the investigation was being handled.
“We had no choice but to send this to Rome,” Margason said. “This is the first time that I know of that this has happened.”
Dave Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also said it is likely the first time the Vatican has pulled an investigation away from a diocese in the U.S.
He said the move set a bad precedent.
“The bureaucrats in the hierarchy in Rome are not as good at protecting the rights of victims as they are obsessed with the technicalities of internal church processes,” Clohessy said. “The transfer of these kinds of cases means they are bypassing input from the victims.”
Rensing was ordained in Belleville in 1955. The accusations against him stem from a 1970 incident with a male minor in Fairview Heights.