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Survivor Narratives

Alvin L. Campbell

Bishop Joseph McNicholas was warned about Father Alvin Campbell. Even so, he allowed Campbell to enter the Diocese of Springfield and minister at multiple parishes over a course of years, sexually abusing children all along the way.

Campbell served as a chaplain in the United States Army from 1963 to 1977. According to diocesan records, Campbell retired from the military in late 1977 and sought assignment in the Diocese of Springfield. Prior to Campbell’s arrival in the diocese, a senior army chaplain telephoned the diocese regarding Campbell. In a January 1978 memorandum to Bishop McNicholas, a diocesan official explained to the bishop that the army chaplain disclosed in the telephone call that “Campbell has a moral problem with boys/young men and this has surfaced and was being brought against him when he chose to resign. . . . [T]he matter had been handled ‘sub secreto’ through the Military delegate in Germany and there had been no scandal through publicity.”

The January 1978 memorandum to the bishop concluded by noting “some report would be forthcoming” regarding Campbell. Ignoring the unequivocal warning from the United States Army, the bishop named Campbell pastor at Saint Jude in Rochester less than a month later. And in 1979, he was named pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Assumption, an assignment that would be short lived.

Diocesan records show that Campbell is reported to have sexually abused 33 children while ministering in the Diocese of Springfield. Each of those children was abused after Bishop McNicholas was warned by the United States Army that Campbell “has a moral problem with boys.”

Diocesan records show that Campbell began sexually abusing children in Assumption almost immediately. They also confirm that the diocese had notice of the abuse as early as January 1980. Then, in December 1981, a family contacted Bishop McNicholas about Campbell’s “conduct with their daughter.” That same month, a diocesan official communicated with the family to tell them “of the development and handling of this matter—following Father’s complete admission” to the bishop. The official assured the family that Campbell “realizes the harm and his need for help . . . and will leave the parish after the weekend.” The official described Campbell as “remorseful and aware of this wrongdoing, and the effect upon your daughter and family.” Campbell resigned as pastor “for health reasons” eight days later. He did not remain inactive for long. He was assigned to another parish within months.

From 1982 through 1985, Campbell ministered at Saint Maurice in Morrisonville. Diocesan records reflect that Campbell abused 26 children while in Morrisonville. Those same records contain survivors’ descriptions of the abuse Campbell forced upon the children of the diocese—masturbation, group masturbation, photographing abuse acts, groping, oral sex performed on children, anal sex performed on the priest, anal sex performed on children, fondling, kissing, and pornography.

While the diocese sat on its hands regarding Campbell’s child sex abuse, law enforcement was alerted, and in 1985 Campbell was criminally indicted for molesting boys between the ages of 11 and 15. He pleaded guilty, but mentally ill. Campbell was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Diocesan records show that Campbell is reported to have sexually abused 33 children while ministering in the Diocese of Springfield. Each of those children was abused after Bishop McNicholas was warned by the United States Army that Campbell “has a moral problem with boys.” And 26 of them were sexually abused after the diocese received the first report of abuse at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Terms are defined as provided in the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Glossary of Catholic Terms, unless denoted with *.

Altar server
Individuals, usually children, who assist clerics during liturgical functions such as mass. Prior to 1994, only men and boys were permitted to be altar servers.*
The title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials.
The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province. It is governed by an archbishop.
Auxiliary Bishop
A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop.
The highest order of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church. The chief priests in their respective dioceses. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. All bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church.
A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from ordained members of religious orders.
Canon Law

A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church.

Highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope. Cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors. Most cardinals are archbishops.
The chief archivist of a diocese's official records. Also a notary and secretary of the diocese’s central administration.
Clergy is a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests, and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. A cleric is an individual member of the clergy. Only men are permitted to join the clergy.
Confession or Reconciliation
The Catholic sacrament in which one makes a voluntary self-accusation of sins to a qualified priest in private in order to obtain absolution. The priest provides the confessor, also known as the penitent, with a penance to atone for sins committed. A priest who hears confession is forbidden from disclosing the contents of a confession to others under what is called the seal of confession.*
The personnel and offices through which (1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or (2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia). The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors, and notaries.
Dallas Charter
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People sets forth policies for each United States archdiocese and diocese to adopt as part of an effort to address allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The Charter was formulated at the 2002 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
One of three groups that comprise the clergy, meaning those ordained for ministry. Only men are permitted to become deacons. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests.
Diocesan Priest
Priests under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other diocesan ministries or released for service outside the diocese.
A territorial division of the Church headed by a bishop.
Extern Priest
A priest with faculties to minister in a diocese or archdiocese who was not ordained in that diocese or archdiocese. For example, a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Springfield who has been granted faculties to minister by the Archdiocese of Chicago is an extern priest.*
Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a Church superior, to perform certain official acts.
Members of the Catholic Church. Derived from Catholic teachings that clergy are like shepherds guiding a flock.*
Laicize or Defrock
The process by which a priest is returned to the lay state. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime, but also can come at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent for a crime, such as committing child sexual abuse, it is sometimes called defrocking.
Any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader, or music leader at mass.
An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests.
A member of a religious order of women who has taken solemn or simple vows.
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop. A cleric who has undergone ordination is known as ordained.*
A specific community within a diocese with its own church building and under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.
A priest in charge of a Catholic parish or congregation.
Acts performed to atone for committed sins, as directed by a priest in the Catholic sacrament of reconcilliation.*
Residential housing for clergy provided by the Church. A rectory can also contain administrative offices for a parish.*
Religious Cleric
Professed member of a religious order or institute. Religious clergy live according to the rule of their respective orders.
Religious Order or Order
An institution of men or women, at least some of whose members take solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and whose male members are sometimes ordained.*
An educational institution for men preparing for the priesthood.
A cleric who acts in the name of another cleric.*
Vicar general
A priest, auxiliary bishop, or coadjutor bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese.
Victims Assistance Coordinator

A diocesan employee who has been designated to coordinate assistance to survivors of sex abuse by clerics.*