Mark A. Campobello
Father Mark Campobello pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two teenage girls in 1999 and 2000. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for his crimes. In both instances, he took advantage of his trusted status in the girls’ lives—in one case, as a close friend of the survivor’s family, and in the other, as an assistant principal and spiritual director at the survivor’s high school. His inappropriate relationships with these girls did not go unnoticed; on more than one occasion, community members reported their concerns about Campobello’s behavior to the Diocese of Rockford. But the diocese failed to take appropriate action to protect these survivors against further abuse.
Campobello admitted to molesting a 14 year old girl while she was a student at Saint Peter in Geneva in the early months of 1999. Campobello was working at Aurora Central Catholic High School at that time but lived at the Saint Peter rectory and occasionally said mass there. The pastor of Saint Peter became concerned about “some boundary issues” he observed and reported these to the diocese. More than once, Campobello was seen having breakfast at a café alone with the eighth grade daughter of a member of the church community. In addition, Campobello was seen taking the girl to his room in the rectory “so she could use his computer or some other excuse.”
The vicar general summoned Campobello for a meeting in February 1999 to discuss the parish priest’s concerns. According to the vicar general’s handwritten notes, Campobello said he had “been good friends of the family” for a number of years. He admitted to dining alone with the girl but insisted everything he had done with her “has always been with the knowledge and consent of the family.” He conceded some of his interactions with the girl had been “stupid” or could appear inappropriate but “promised” the vicar general “there is nothing to it and he would change his manner of relating to all in this family.” The vicar general apparently accepted Campobello’s explanation without further investigation. He concluded that he saw “no reason at this time to take any further action. If other complaints surface, then this is a case for the intervention team.”
In fact, Campobello was sexually abusing the girl. She came forward to her parents in the summer of 2002. Her allegation was shared with the diocese, which attempted that fall to undertake its own investigation. While that process was underway, however, Campobello was arrested by Geneva police in December 2002 and charged with sexual assault by the Kane County state’s attorney. He was removed from ministry that same month and eventually pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2004.
Campobello also admitted to abusing a 16 year old girl who attended Aurora Central between November 1999 and March 2000 while he served as assistant principal and religious education teacher at the school. In November 1999, Bishop Thomas Doran was made aware of an Aurora Central “executive meeting” at which a “layperson” raised concerns “about the time a priest was spending with a young person” from a “broken home.” The community member reported that Campobello had been seen twice eating out at a restaurant with a girl in her junior year during school hours. Campobello was also said to have seen the girl in his office “several times”; apparently, he made her his “teacher’s aide.”
The same month, November 1999, Campobello was summoned to another meeting—this time with the bishop himself—to discuss his behavior. The bishop “severely warned” Campobello about “seeing” the young girl in “compromising circumstances.” Campobello “assured” the bishop that he would end the relationship and had not been sexually abusing the girl; apparently the bishop took him at his word. At the very least, diocesan officials concluded “there is a pattern” of Campobello “not using good common sense about associating with young girls.” Yet the diocese did not refer the allegation to its intervention team or take any further action at the time.
Three months later, in February 2000, the diocese removed Campobello from his position at Aurora Central because he had yet to “end” the “ongoing and public relationship he has with a junior girl.” When confronted about this by the vicar general and others, Campobello even admitted there had been “some physical contact between them.” He agreed with the diocese’s recommendation to travel to a psychiatric facility out of state for an “evaluation” and “inpatient treatment for behavior modification.” There is no evidence in the diocese’s files that it took any action to provide assistance to the survivor whom Campobello had admitted to inappropriately touching. Nor is there any evidence the diocese notified law enforcement or community members about Campobello’s admissions or the danger he posed to young girls. When he returned to Illinois a few months later, Campobello was assigned to a new parish in Crystal Lake and, later, another parish in Belvidere.
Upon hearing the news of Campobello’s December 2002 arrest for sexual assault of the first survivor discussed above, the second survivor of his abuse came forward to report her own ordeal. Campobello was indicted with additional charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in October 2003 and pleaded guilty in May 2004. He was laicized in June 2005. After serving several years in prison, Campobello was released in July 2010 and was last known to be living in Crystal Lake.
While Campobello’s criminal prosecution was pending, the Diocese of Rockford refused to turn over its internal files to Kane County prosecutors. Among other things, the state’s attorney sought to determine whether the diocese sent Campobello to the out-of-state psychiatric facility in February 2000 because it was aware he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a child. The diocese asserted multiple justifications for withholding Campobello’s personnel file and the results of its internal investigations, including that the requests were “an intrusion by the State into the internal workings of the Catholic Church” and “that its practice of religion is jeopardized by the subpoena.” The diocese’s arguments were ultimately rejected by the Illinois appellate court, which reasoned in a precedential opinion that the church’s internal rules forbidding disclosure of its files did not “permit[ ] evidence pertaining to sexual molestation of children by priests to be secreted and shielded from discovery.”