Former Belleville priest accused of fondling minor during 1970s summer camp

By The Madison County Record | Mar 31, 2014

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville finds itself at the center of another lawsuit as one of its priests is being accused of fondling a boy in the 1970s.

J. Christ filed a lawsuit March 17 in the St. Clair County Circuit Court against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville.

In his complaint, Christ alleges he was attending a summer camp at Camp Ondessonk in Ozark, during the summers of 1970 and 1971 when the alleged incidents occurred. Christ says one of the priests at the camp, Father Robert J. Vonnahmen, inappropriately touched him while he was attending the camp.

This conduct included but was not limited to urging the plaintiff and other children to go skinny-dipping, then coming up behind the plaintiff with his own pants off and rubbing on the plaintiff's behind, fondling the plaintiff, rubbing his genitalia on the plaintiff, causing the plaintiff to put the plaintiff's hand on his penis, penetrating the plaintiff's anus with his penis during a sleepover in Father Vonnahmen's room, coaxing the plaintiff to bend over to reach into a trunk for an arrow-head patch, then taking his pants down and rubbing on plaintiff's behind and coming to a private golf-course pool in the plaintiff's home town, watching the plaintiff and leaving pornographic material depicting grown men with young boys on the plaintiff's path home for plaintiff to find, the suit states.

Christ claims he was too afraid to talk to anyone about the incidents. Instead, he repressed the memories, causing him severe psychological harm, the complaint says. It was not until December 2013 that Christ remembered what had happened and could connect them with the emotional and mental issues he had endured, he claims.

Christ blames the Catholic church for causing his injuries, saying it failed to properly supervise Vonnahmen so he was not alone with children who attended the camp, failed to institute protocols and procedures so that Vonnahmen would not be alone with children at the camp, failed to protect Christ from sexual assault, failed to investigate the complaints of minors and failed to implement rules so that Vonnahmen would not be allowed to touch minor children.

Christ is seeking a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs. Jeffrey S. Deutschman and Bradley A. Skafish of Deutschman and Associates in Chicago.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-227.

More News

The Record Network