Skip to Content

Survivor Narratives

Jerome B. Ratermann

“It’s our little secret,” Father Jerome Ratermann told his young victim. “But it’s okay because I’m your priest.” “Daniel” reached out to the Attorney General’s investigators to share details of the sexual abuse he endured at Ratermann’s hands.

Daniel grew up believing “priests are like family; they have your best interest at heart.” That’s what he was taught as a boy attending Saints Peter and Paul in Waterloo, where Ratermann was assigned from 1972 through 1985. And that is why Daniel (like so many others) did not reveal the abuse he suffered until years later—after decades-old memories began to resurface and “weird thoughts and dreams started to come.”

And while the diocese claims it didn’t learn about Ratermann’s sexual abuse of young boys until 1986, its own documents reveal it was first notified almost two decades earlier.

“I felt special being an altar server,” Daniel told the Attorney General’s investigators. Every summer, Ratermann would take the altar servers for weekends at his houseboat on Crab Orchard Lake in Williamson County. Ratermann used these trips as an excuse to get the boys alone—and his houseboat is where the worst abuse occurred. It started with touching and fondling and ultimately led to oral and anal sex.

But Daniel wasn’t safe from Ratermann even away from his houseboat. The abuse extended into the church itself. Ratermann would often kiss and fondle Daniel at Saints Peter and Paul while the boy was changing into his altar robes before mass.

When the memories returned, Daniel reached out to the Diocese of Belleville for help. The diocese agreed to pay for therapy, which Daniel found helpful. Six months in, however, Daniel contacted an attorney, who wrote the diocese on his behalf. The diocese lashed out and refused to pay for further treatment.

At times, Daniel has found himself on the brink of suicide. “You understand rationally that it wasn’t your fault,” he says, “but I still have those guilt issues.” He credits his incredible family relationships and is thankful they understood what he was going through and supported him throughout. “Everyone has bad days,” Daniel explains, “but most people’s reaction when going through a hard time isn’t ‘let’s just end this shit because I’m tired of it.’ It’s a never-ending battle every day. And when it’s a bad day, I have to consciously talk myself down from doing something stupid.”

Daniel believes he “was not the only one” Ratermann sexually abused. He’s right. The Attorney General’s investigation of diocesan files confirmed at least six other survivors alleged Ratermann abused them. And while the diocese claims it didn’t learn about Ratermann’s sexual abuse of young boys until 1986, its own documents reveal it was first notified almost two decades earlier.

According to Ratermann’s own summary of events, “[i]n the summer of 1968 allegations were made to [the] Bishop of Belleville, about my sexual misconduct with teenagers.” Ratermann continued: “The Bishop sent me on a leave of absence from my assignment as principal of Mater Dei High School in Breese, Illinois. The case was resolved by the Bishop, the parents, and the State’s Attorney. No one pressed charges. Later I was assigned to parish ministry.”

In 1986, an additional allegation surfaced. But even when faced with another allegation, the diocese “concluded that to leave Father in his ministry would not threaten harm to anyone because of sexual misconduct on his part.” Ratermann’s response to the charge was “that he had no memory of the abuse, but [he] said it could have happened. He could not deny it.” Despite this, “[i]t was determined that Father Ratermann could continue to serve as a parish priest.” So he was given a new parish assignment at Blessed Sacrament in Belleville. It was only in 1993, after “allegations of a similar nature” came to light, that the diocese felt the need to “relieve Father of all of his pastoral duties.” Ratermann has not ministered since.

As for Daniel, he believes the “Catholic church lied about [the abuse] and covered it up. I hold the church just as responsible for the cover up.” But Daniel is pleased Ratermann was finally placed on the diocese’s public list of child sex abusers in October 2018. What took so long? The diocese took action only after the Attorney General’s investigators urged it to disclose those priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.

Today, as a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, the Diocese of Belleville’s list of substantiated abusers has more than doubled from the original 17 names. It now includes 42 clerics who the church concedes ministered in, or had a meaningful connection with, the Diocese of Belleville and have “credible allegations [against them] that they engaged in the sexual abuse of minors or serious sexual misconduct with adults.”

See details for Jerome B. Ratermann

Back to Top

Scroll of Abusive Clerics/Brothers



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.*