Thomas Donovan, Priest Who Called 911 Tied Up, Gagging in Bondage Mask, Back to Ministry

father-thomas-donovan.jpg
via nbcnews.com
News coverage of Thomas Donovan's 911 call.
The "bondage priest" is back.

Father Thomas Donovan was the man behind the 911 call heard round the world in which he told a dispatcher that he was in the rectory and needed help getting out of handcuffs. Why was he stuck? He said he was "playing with them" and needed to be rescued before it became an emergency. When cops arrived on that November day, they allegedly found him -- alone -- in some sort of leather bondage mask and an orange jumpsuit.

He was soon after granted a leave of absence and now, many months later, church officials say he is returning to the ministry -- headed in our direction to Alton. The Diocese of Springfield says it will be a "gradual" process.

First, let's listen to that call again, via the Illinois Times, which sparked the viral coverage:

Some notable excerpts of the gagged priest's labored remarks:

"I am stuck in a pair of handcuffs and am going to need help getting out before this becomes a medical emergency," he says.

Dispatcher: "What's the problem?"

"I am stuck in a pair of handcuffs," he repeats. "I was playing with them so I need some help getting out."

He goes on to explain that he is in the St. Aloysius rectory and that he is the only one there. The priest was soon thereafter discovered in an orange jumpsuit apparently with "a leather bondage-type mask with a bar in his mouth."

And why exactly was he in this situation? Church officials later referred to it as "non-sexual self-bondage."

handucffs-photo.jpg
Klaus with K photo via

Fast forward to this week when the Diocese of Springfield Illinois issued a lengthy press release explaining his "gradual return to ministry," which is beginning next week in Alton.

A special panel apparently convened to advise Bishop Thomas John Paprocki about its recommendations. He will, officials say, be assigned as chaplain to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, with residence at their provincial house in Alton, effective Monday.

"The Sisters have agreed to this assignment in a spiritual environment and supportive atmosphere of prayer and compassion," Paprocki says in a statement.

In a letter to Paprocki, panel members said they reviewed relevant material concerning the November 28 incident, the release says, including reports from mental health professionals summarizing treatment, diagnoses and recommendations for Donovan. The panel apparently conducted both a "lengthy and probing interview" and a "full personal interview" with the priest.

The panel concluded that he was indeed alone at the time of the 911 call and that there he is not a danger to himself or others.

The panel also recommends that "Father Donovan's ministerial and therapeutic progress should be regularly and carefully monitored for the foreseeable future."

"I have accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the panel and am grateful to the members of the Special Panel for their time and expertise in addressing this matter," Paprocki says in his statement. "I also commend Father Donovan for his complete cooperation with his spiritual directors, medical and therapeutic professionals, and members of the panel."

Here's a copy of the panel's letter, made public yesterday:

Donovan Recommendation

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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30 comments
SuWu
SuWu

"The Sisters have agreed to this assignment in a spiritual environment and supportive atmosphere of prayer and compassion," and they all said, "Yeah, bring that bad boy over here. We'll give him a lengthly and probing interview!"

julie.peterson1
julie.peterson1

Big woop. It's up to the church, and the only reason they need to make any kind of example of him is that his private behavior was revealed. He didn't do anything illegal or dangerous to others.

Christopher McIntosh
Christopher McIntosh

@Shirley, let's get rid of the instutions of imaginary gods... altogether.

Yojimbo
Yojimbo

"a 'lengthy and probing interview...'"

Indeed.  

Denise Acsay
Denise Acsay

Help me with this, he made a phone call without hands and muzzled? Or was someone there to do it for him?

Kelly Roth
Kelly Roth

Priests and Nun are LGBT, the just hide behind cloak and habit

Donna Torchwood
Donna Torchwood

Apparently he's confused between self-flagellation and BDSM...

Michael Mytzlplyk
Michael Mytzlplyk

Well at LEAST he wasn't with an altar boy. Give him credit for that.

Bridget Aholt Blair
Bridget Aholt Blair

As an S&M film lover he didn't win the annual bondage award but felt rather proud to have been dominated.

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

Poll- where was the bondage gear purchased by the Priest? 1. Online 2. Local adult store 3. It was a gift 4. Souvenir from that trip to the West Hollywood parish

Sarah G Mitchell
Sarah G Mitchell

And this is a priest? wait at least there wasn't a child involved.

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

I take it the mouth bit went on first, then the handcuffs.

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

So after time off they put him in charge of nuns. Sorry- it's just weird. That sounds like a further punishment to me, and may cause him to go out and relive himself in other ways. I would hope he may consider converting. Worshiping as a Christian as well as having a consensual sex life.

Keith Stephens
Keith Stephens

"The panel apparently conducted both a "lengthy and probing interview"

Kyler Thomas
Kyler Thomas

"Non-sexual, self-bondage" I'm sorry, what?

Keith Stephens
Keith Stephens

He likes S&M and they're treating it as a mental health problem he can work through.

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

:( Another reason that abstaining from human sexuality should not be part of the job. How embarrassing. I would not feel comfortable having children around this priest or any for that manner. Being suppressed as they are told to be is dangerous and un natural. Was there another person involved? Seems fishy...

Scott Tyler
Scott Tyler

They sent him for a 6 month reflection at Houdini College.

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