BELLEVILLE — The Catholic Diocese of Belleville said it is cooperating with investigators after one of its associate pastors was taken into police custody Monday in an apparent child pornography investigation.

The pastor is identified by the diocese as the Rev. Gerald R. Hechenberger. He is the associate pastor of Holy Childhood of Jesus Parish in Mascoutah, St. Pancratius Parish in Fayetteville and St. Liborius Parish in St. Libory, according to the Catholic Diocese of Belleville.

The diocese issued this statement on Monday, after learning that Hechenberger was taken into police custody:

"This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger," the statement says. "At this point, the Diocese has no reason to believe that any parishioners are affected by this matter. The Diocese is awaiting an update on information from the civil authorities, and has assured them of the Diocese’s full cooperation. Beyond requesting your prayers for Father Hechenberger, the Diocese will make no further comment at this time."

No charges had been filed as of Tuesday morning, according to an online court records search.

Belleville police did not identify Hechenberger by name in a statement the department released about the child pornography investigation, but said a cyber tip had pointed them to a Mascoutah resident.

That resident was in possession of multiple images of child pornography, according to Belleville police. The photographed victims were under the age of 13. Belleville police say detectives served a search warrant at a Mascoutah home on Monday.

Belleville police, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office are working together on the investigation.

Master Sgt. Todd Keilbach of the Belleville Police Department said police won't be talking any more about the case until the state's attorney has a chance to review the information and consider charges. Keilbach said that review was underway on Tuesday.

The Post-Dispatch reported in 2011 that Hechenberger abruptly took a leave of absence as priest at St. John the Baptist parish in Smithton, Illinois. A letter circulated by the Belleville diocese at the time said he was taking the leave to address "very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges." The letter, sent to priests and deacons, didn't directly state the source of the challenges.

Monsignor John Myler, the media contact for the diocese, emailed the diocese's statement to the Post-Dispatch but was not immediately available Tuesday to discuss what became of those issues in 2011.

This story originally ran on stltoday.com, a sister publication to thesouthern.com.

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