Accuser of sex abuse at Aurora church drops anonymity

Updated 11/30/2015 7:30 PM

Members of two groups critical of the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse by priests are calling for parishioners to withhold financial donations to an Aurora church.

And the man who sued that church, St. Rita of Cascia, under the name "John Doe" has revealed his identity. He is John Plaschke, who now lives in Maryland, and said he revealed himself to encourage other possible victims to come forward.


Plaschke's suit, filed in September in Winnebago County, names the church, the Rockford Diocese and John Holdren, a priest at St. Rita of Cascia in the early 1970s.

In a phone interview, Plaschke said the recent news about sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby prompted him to investigate his own abuse. The shame and the fear of not being believed expressed by Cosby's accusers resonated with Plaschke and brought out suppressed memories, he said. Plaschke said he filed the suit after being unsatisfied with the responses of the parish and the diocese to his questions.

Plaschke contends he was abused in 1972 and 1973 while attending classes in preparation for making his first confession, when he was 7 and 8 years old.

He said Holdren told his parents that Plaschke needed extra work learning some prayers. The priest then took Plaschke to a classroom and abused him, Plaschke said. He said abuse also occurred in a confessional booth.

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Holdren, who lives in Aurora, could not be reached for comment.

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, and Voices of the Faithful passed out leaflets Sunday morning at St. Rita's. They contend the diocese has secret files about sex crimes by priests and urged the diocese to make such files public.

The leaflets also urged parishioners to stop donating money until the diocese "stops concealing" child sex crimes, paying or supporting sex-offender clerics and "callously mistreating" victims.

The leaflets contained a statement by Plaschke. They also contained a statement from another man, contending he was abused by another priest at St. Rita's in the 1970s.

Penny Wiegert, spokesman for the diocese, said she could not comment on Plaschke's lawsuit. She said Holdren has not been a diocesan priest since 2005. After working in Aurora, Holdren served at St. Peter in Geneva, then at churches in Crystal Lake and Johnsburg.


According to a 1994 newspaper article and Aurora police records, he resigned from the Johnsburg church to recover from injuries he sustained in a beating at his Aurora home.

"Obviously, we've longtime said that one case of abuse is one too many," Wiegert said. "We have many, many programs in place and safeguards to keep our children and the people of the Catholic Church safe from abuse,"

One of the spokesmen for SNAP, Kate Bochte of Geneva, is the wife of Frank Bochte, who called on Catholics to withhold donations when the Bochtes were members of St. Peter parish in Geneva.

Frank Bochte, then an FBI agent, was unhappy with the response from parish and diocesan officials to criminal charges faced by priest Mark Campobello. The diocese had refused to turn personnel and internal investigation records over to Kane County prosecutors. It contended turning over the records interfered with its right to exercise religious freedom. An appellate court disagreed and ordered the release of the records. Campobello later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The diocese later reached an out-of-court settlement with his two victims. One was a parishioner; another was a student at Aurora Central Catholic High School, where Campobello taught.

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