ST. LOUIS – Patrick Wall describes himself as a former fixer for the Catholic Church. The former monk says his job was to clean up after a report of sexual abuse.
“Every one of my assignments was to follow a monk who had been credibly accused of child sexual assault and they had to remove him because the knowledge became public,” he said.
Wall spoke with Fox 2 via Skype about why he left the church after years of fixing allegations.
“It really wasn’t until years later that I began to have an understanding of what my assignments were. They were just one following another and I would say until 1996 or ’97, I didn’t understand essentially what I was assigned to do time after time after time,” he said. “That’s when awareness came that this huge dilemma and disaster of childhood sexual assault by priests was not going to end and that’s when I made the personal decision, I couldn’t support it any longer.”
“There was no way to take away that pain. You can’t eat that pain. There’s no way to give them any solace, because leadership was not going to acknowledge number one, publicly, that it happened.”
After leaving the church, Wall started working with attorneys who sued on behalf of children who say they’ve been abused. He says many of the accused priests are finding homes around the St. Louis area.
“Missouri law has been very favorable to the church,” Wall said. “That’s why these facilities pop up.”
He’s talking about places like a Dittmer property Fox 2 featured last month, owned by the Servants of the Paraclete. It’s where priests and former priests get help and rehabilitation. Last month, a priest was arrested there – accused of abusing as many as 50 children.
“Is there proper supervision at these facilities? Those are real concerns,” Wall said. “I know the neighbors over the years, especially in Dittmer, have not been happy.”
“It’s a public safety question, you know, where are the perpetrators that have been acknowledged either by a court or by the various religious institutes? Who’s supervising them?”
A viewer pointed out there’s also a children’s camp near the Dittmer property.
No one in Dittmer would answer our questions about who’s lived here. And it’s not the only place housing accused priests.
Near Dittmer, in Franklin County, a rehabbing priest was convicted of possessing child pornography while living at the Wounded Brothers project.
Our recent Fox Files reports have featured two other places – like Jesuit Hall, near the SLU campus. It’s where we found a retired priest on a “list of Jesuits with credible accusations of sexual abuse of a minor.”
And the Regina Cleri Home in Webster Groves, where we learned a priest accused of sex abuse lived rent-free until he died.
That former priest’s sister accused the church of covering up her brother’s past.
“They will not just be open and transparent and just say what’s going on,” Carol Kuhnert told us last August.
Kuhnert also wrote a book about it called No Longer on Pedestals.
Meanwhile, Patrick Wall found his new calling – fighting for victims in civil court.
“That’s the most effective way to get anything done,” he said. “The church has proven since the 1980s that it can’t discipline itself and so the only way to do it is with civil authorities.”
The Catholic Church has recently been revealing names of priests with credible accusations and in some cases telling us where they are. There is also a new search engine by ProPublica, where anyone can look up details on priests based on documents the church has released.