Illinois Pastor Arrested For Having Child Porn And Possessing Meth

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A friend of the priest believes blame lies with the church for not helping him with his drug problem.

An Illinois priest was arrested last week on charges of possessing meth and child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, associate pastor of Holy Childhood Church and school in Mascoutah, was charged Tuesday with 16 counts of child pornography and one count of possession of meth.

A longtime friend of the priest spoke out in defense of Hechenberger Thursday, blaming the church for not helping him with his drug addiction.

[Anne] Hannigan said the church was aware of Hechenberger’s alleged drug problem about five years ago and did not offer him help in fighting his addiction.

“I think this is a high-tech crucifixion,” Hannigan said. “They said terrible things about Christ and they said terrible things about Gerald Hechenberger. Furthermore, the church cannot wash their hands in this blame game and the tragedy which has occurred in his life.”

Hannigan is not alone in her criticism of how the church handled Hechenberger's situation:

Barbara Dorris, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the church failed the community when they placed Hechenberger in another parish despite “obvious issues.”

“There’s enough red flags,” Dorris said. “If he has depression and he’s found wandering at a truck stop and being charged with trespassing, that means he has some issues. Why would you put him in contact with some of the most vulnerable members of society?”

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