PRESS RELEASE / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 1999
AREA CATHOLIC WOMEN FOLLOW GARBAGE TRUCK
Springfield, IL —- On Monday, August 23, 1999 several Catholic women, from the Springfield Diocese, were forced to dig through a trash dumpster to retrieve five United States Flags, Boy Scout flags, school books, crucifixes, rosaries, bibles, vestments, altar linens and other religious items that had been thrown out by Sacred Heart Pastor, Father Kevin Laughery.
Also found in the dumpster was a small sterling silver cylinder with ornate writing and designs on its top and sides. This turned out to be what Priests refer to as an "oil stock". On Holy Thursday the bishop blesses three forms of oil which are used for various sacraments and liturgical events. (For example - the oil of the sick which is used in the sacrament of Anointing.) Another oil is used for the administration of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is called "Chrism". These oils are considered blessed and are so important that each parish must send a personal representative to the "Chrism Mass" on Holy Thursday to personally bring them back. The oil stock thrown in the dumpster was clearly marked "O.C.", meaning it contained sacred chrism, and in fact, on opening it, the Chrism was still inside. The chrism should have been either poured into the sacrarium in the Church (A receptacle with a pipe leading into the earth and not into the sewer.), or it should be poured into the earth and covered , or it may be burned, but never simply thrown into a dumpster to be taken out with the garbage!
The prior week Laughery had the dumpster delivered to Sacred Heart and notified parishioners that the basement at the church would be cleaned out. While a select few were allowed to take certain items others were denied access. Rose Hassiepen (217-787-6747), a Springfield resident and a member of Sacred Heart parish for more then 70 years stated; "It is a sad day when parish members are forced to dig through garbage to retrieve religious items we helped pay for. It is heartbreaking."
Pam Bultmann (217-632-3319) of Petersburg, longtime member of Sacred Heart, contacted Fr. Laughery’s office to see if he would donate these items to Mary Immaculate Academy (a new school forming in Petersburg) rather then throw them away. According to Mrs. Bultmann, Father’s secretary said he would not allow it.
Born July 8, 1957 in Decatur, IL and ordained May 28, 1983, Fr. Laughery was installed as pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Patrick’s Parishes in Springfield, IL on July 21, 1998.
Sacred Heart parish had been one of the last parishes in Springfield where a communion rail that was still in use could be found. Lines for confessions were long and the rosary was still a part of Church tradition at the parish. Many orthodox Catholics of the Springfield area had migrated to Sacred Heart after other parishes in the area had been "gutted" by renovation. According to some parish members, that all changed when Laughery came to town.
On New Year’s eve 1998, Father Laughery, with the help of his parents, removed the communion rail at Sacred Heart. The congregation, for the most part, was devastated. In the January 16, 1999 bulletin Fr. Laughery stated:
"It was time. The new look brings an openness to the approach to the altar, and a sense of inclusiveness for the congregation in the celebration of the Mass.
Without the communion rail, communicants are now urged to stand to receive the Eucharist, a posture of respect that is just as appropriate as kneeling"
About the same time Fr. Laughery removed the communion rail he was receiving some recognition from a Florida newspaper. According to the Palm Beach Post newspaper reports from December 24 and 25, 1998 and January 10, 1999, two students from Palm Beach Community College in Florida became concerned when they found out that their horticulture teacher, Walter Weerts, at times had a live-in 8-year-old "adopted grandchild" he called "Manny" and heard that Weerts and the child had said "they shared the same bed".
An Internet search by the students revealed that Father Weerts was a convicted child molester, a pedophile Catholic priest, from the Springfield, IL Diocese. In 1986 Weerts was sentenced to six years in an Illinois state prison after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving boys between the ages of 12 and 16. Weerts pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, and the victims' lawsuit, which blamed the Diocese of Springfield, IL, for not preventing the abuse, was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Palm Beach Community College, which sought to hire Weerts (after he was released from prison) contacted Fr. Laughery for a recommendation and received what was later described as a "glowing reference" from Laughery, "Weerts’ former superior", who explained Weerts’ departure from the diocese as a "change of career."
Laughery acknowledged he did not disclose Weerts' crimes, though he knew about them. "I answered the questions I was asked," Laughery said. "At that point, I was wishing what was best for him."
According to a Palm Beach Post story of 12/24/98, the former Illinois state’s attorney Thomas Leeper, who prosecuted the case, said he "submitted a 225-page report prepared by investigators that concluded Weerts had been sexually involved with boys for as long as eighteen years and that Church officials knew of his problem but repeatedly reassigned him to other parishes." The three boys, at least one of whom was an altar boy, filed a civil suit against the Diocese of Springfield and won a seven-figure settlement before the civil case went to trial, said their attorney, Stephen Tillery of Bellville, IL. "It was a very substantial settlement that by order cannot be disclosed," Tillery said. "The destruction this man caused was horrible. One of the three boys is damaged beyond repair. The toll on the families was devastating. It's outrageous that Weerts would ever be able to work with children again," Tillery said.
Father Laughery is also Chaplain of the Newman Club at the University of Illinois in Springfield. His Newman Club web page (http://members.aol.com/exsult1/newman.html) has a link on it to the PRIDE web site. PRIDE is a homosexual student group. From PRIDE’s web site you can access gay pornography.
During the first three weeks of January, members of Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc. (a group based in Petersburg) confronted Fr. Laughery regarding his removal of the Communion rail and his providing a "glowing reference" for a priest pedophile from the diocese. At a January 28, 1999 Sacred Heart Parish Council meeting, Father Laughery stated (according to the minutes):