ST. LOUIS – A Wisconsin diocese late Friday suspended a Roman Catholic priest who fathered a child during a five-year relationship in Illinois and may have been involved separately with a minor.
The Catholic Diocese of Superior said the Rev. Henry Willenborg has been suspended with pay.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called for the move earlier Friday in St. Louis. The national support group for those hurt by religious authorities also said it wants church officials in Missouri and Wisconsin to help the mother and son, now 22, who has terminal cancer.
The suspension was effective immediately, Superior diocese spokesman Richard Lyons said.
"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.
SNAP's demands also were in response to a Times story Friday about the Ashland, Wis., pastor, his former lover and their son, and claims by a second woman that she'd been involved with him as a high school student.
Pat Bond, now of O'Fallon, Mo., received about $100,000 in financial support from the Franciscans, Willenborg's religious order. That included $85,000 in support for their son, Nathan, half of his tuition at the University of Missouri and 50 percent of extraordinary medical expenses.
The settlements were reached after legal battles on the condition she not disclose them publicly. Bond, who was in her 20s when the relationship with Willenborg began in Quincy, Ill., said she needs more financial assistance.
She said in a statement that SNAP released Friday that she was "finished begging the church to do the right thing" and would turn to others for help.
The Franciscans told the Times they were generous, concerned for the boy and his well-being, and went beyond what the law required.
Bond's phone number is unlisted, and she did not respond to an interview request forwarded by SNAP.
Phone messages left with Willenborg; the Franciscans' provincial leader in St. Louis, the Rev. William Spencer; and the religious order's attorney, Catherine Schroeder, were not immediately returned Friday.
SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, said Friday he wants church leaders in Missouri and Wisconsin to "aggressively reach out to anyone else who saw or suffered or suspected misdeeds."
He said it's "inherently unhealthy, hurtful and wrong" for Roman Catholic priests to abuse their position of trust and authority over other Catholics.
But the St. Louis archdiocese said in a statement that a bishop has only limited jurisdiction over a priest not of his diocese such as Willenborg.
Lyons said Friday that Superior Bishop Peter Christensen first learned of Willenborg's relationship and the child Sept. 17. He said Willenborg disclosed it to his congregation at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Ashland during Masses the following weekend, and "received a standing ovation."
"He's been with us four years and there's been nothing to indicate any kind of problems with this man," he said. "From our perspective, he has been a very good priest."
The Times story also said another woman claims to have had a yearslong sexual relationship with Willenborg, beginning when she was in high school.
Lyons said the Superior diocese knew nothing of the alleged relationship with a minor before Friday.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, through a spokesman, expressed "sadness" Friday that a priest's actions "have brought harm to these individuals."
"Any abuse is wrong, never acceptable and contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Catholic Church," the archdiocese's Monsignor John Shamleffer said in a statement.