Saturday, October 17, 2009

Catholic priest who fathered child suspended from ministry

A priest exposed as being the father of a now 22 year old son was suspended yesterday by the Catholic Dioscese of Superior, WI by his superiors. Father Henry Willenborg was suspended immediately, according to spokesman Richard Lyons. "He is to step down from active ministry and any involvement in church events until we have a chance to clarify the information that was in the New York Times article today," Lyons said.

Father Willenborg fathered Nathan Halbach after an "affair" with his mother, Pat Bond, currently of O'Fallon, MO, which started back in 1983.  The seduction came after he led a Catholic women's retreat. Father Willenborg led Pat aside for a kiss, beginning five years of intimate sexual exploitation, leading to Nathan's birth and the breakup of her existing marriage.

In public, they were both leaders in their Catholic community in Quincy, Ill. In private they functioned like a married couple, sharing a bed, meals, movie nights and vacations with the children.

Eventually they had a son, setting off a series of legal battles as Ms. Bond repeatedly petitioned the church for child support. The Franciscans acquiesced, with the stipulation that she sign a confidentiality agreement. It is now an agreement she is willing to break as both she and her child, Nathan Halbach, 22, are battling cancer.

Ms. Bond retained a lawyer, and the Franciscans gave her $1,000 toward the costs of the birth that were not covered by insurance, and $505 toward baby furniture. The Franciscans further agreed to pay $600 a month for the baby’s first 10 months, until Ms. Bond could return to work in a travel agency, and after that $350 a month in child support until Nathan turned 18. It added up, after bank and legal fees, to about $85,000 paid in a lump sum.

The Franciscans also agreed to pay half of Nathan's University of Missouri tuition until he turned 21 and "extraordinary medical expences" until age 23 and it is thair refusal to do so which led the victims to tell their stories.

According to Nate, "Father" Willenborg never functioned as a father to him, just as a priest. “I’ve always called him Father Henry — never Father, never Dad. I always felt he picked religion over me.”

Most tellingly, the "relationship" ended after another woman showed up to Bond's house and told Pat that Father WIllenborg had been seeing that second victim even since high school. Soon afterwards, the Franciscans sent Willenborg to this order for treatment.

The exposure was assisted by SNAP, who met in St. Louis yesterday, where the regional Franciscan head is based. SNAP wants the Franciscans as well as the Superior Dioscese to pay the 22 year old's medical expenses.

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