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Survivor Narratives

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

While Campobello’s criminal prosecution was pending, the Diocese of Rockford refused to turn over its internal files to Kane County prosecutors.

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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.*