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The Incident at St. Aloysius: 911 Call in Illinois Raises Questions for Church

Posted on | January 5, 2013 | 20 Comments

Was something kinky happening in the rectory of a Catholic church in Springfield, Illinois? That would seem to be the implication of this story:

The pastor of St. Aloysius church on Springfield’s north end has been granted a leave of absence after he called 911 from the rectory and told a dispatcher that he needed help getting out of handcuffs.
“I’m going to need help getting out before this becomes a medical emergency,” Father Tom Donovan told a dispatcher who sounds a bit incredulous during the Nov. 28 call.
“You’re stuck in a pair of handcuffs?” the dispatcher asks.
“(I was) playing with them and I need help getting out,” Donovan responds.
Donovan told the dispatcher that he was alone in the rectory. It’s not clear exactly how he ended up in handcuffs or why he feared a medical emergency. His voice sounds garbled or muffled on the tape, and sources say that police discovered some sort of gag on the priest when they arrived.

A Catholic priest in handcuffs and “some sort of gag”? Sounds kind of kinky, but good luck getting an explanation from church officials:

The diocese has been tight-lipped about the matter, saying only that Bishop Thomas Paprocki granted Donovan’s request for a leave of absence at some point before Christmas. The diocese knows about the incident, given that Brad Huff, an attorney for the diocese, has been given a copy of the 911 tape by the Sangamon County Emergency Telephone System Department. Kathie Sass, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Springfield, said that the diocese also has a copy of a police report on the matter.
Sass would not disclose Donovan’s whereabouts or say whether he is staying at a church-affiliated location.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you where Father Donovan is,” Sass said. “There’s a matter of privacy there.”

“A matter of privacy”? Not like the Catholic Church has any history of sex scandals involving alleged cover-ups by the hierarchy or anything.

The obvious suspicion is that the priest is now in one of those church-run therapy centers getting help for his problem, whatever it may be.

Catholic blogger Lisa Graas says “this story sends up some red flags”:

Maybe it was exactly as Fr. Donavan said. Maybe he was alone and simply playing with some handcuffs and got stuck. Or….maybe not. . . . I’m only saying that it’s a possibility that someone else was involved and thought it a funny thing to leave him handcuffed and, as a source said, gagged….or maybe came to Fr. Donavan knowing he had same-sex attraction just to set him up this way so that it would make news and damage the Church.

Lisa adds that (a) this incident made news while Illinois lawmakers were weighing same-sex marriage and (b) “this is being talked about on high-traffic ‘gay rights’ blogs already.”

Not only is the incident being discussed on gay blogs like Towelroad and Queerty, but it has also made headlines at Huffington Post, Mediaite and The Blaze. So the “matter of privacy” defense isn’t really effective, and gossip will run wild in the absence of a plausible explanation.


  • richard mcenroe

    Shoot, when I was in school the only thing you had worry about was Jesuit fisticuffs, not handcuffs…

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  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Salesians can throw a good punch too.

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  • Patrick Carroll

    Ditto Christian Brothers and Patrician Brothers.

  • Patrick Carroll

    I think the “privacy” thing went out t he window when the dude called 911.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    The Christian Brothers have a bad track record of sexual abuse in Australia.

  • Paul H. Lemmen

    Perhaps a robbery? The Church prefers to squash stories about those incidents too, preferring that people not realize how prevalent they are …

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    That would be rather optimistic. But if so it should be reported as a matter of public policy.

  • Patrick Carroll

    Hence my upcoming ever-so-slightly fictionalized autobiography, soon to be book of the month on Oprah.

    Show me the money! Etc.

  • Becca Lower

    That sounds plausible, but they’ve left themselves open to speculation now. Catch-22.

  • V the K

    There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. It involves leprechauns.

  • Ninong

    What naughty altar boy left him like that?

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  • Patrick Carroll

    One can pray for this as a solution.

    Still, robbers with handcuffs *and* a gag? The mind boggles.

  • Paul H. Lemmen

    Common here in Central Florida in home-invasion robberies. Gags or duct-tape over the mouth. Gives the perps more time to get away.

  • Paul H. Lemmen

    Lots of unintended consequences these days. Many Church authorities haven’t a clue this is no longer the 60’s with a media that didn’t report these things …

  • Becca Lower

    It’s a shame.

  • Paul H. Lemmen

    I agree.