A Kansas City priest who has been the subject of numerous sexual abuse lawsuits including one settled this year for more than $2 million has died.
By JUDY L. THOMAS
The Kansas City Star
Monsignor Thomas J. OBrien, 87, died this week, his lawyer confirmed Tuesday.
I dont know any of the details, and I just got that information from family members, said Gerald McGonagle, who has represented OBrien for years.
A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said he had no comment on the death.
OBrien has been the subject of more than two dozen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and was among 12 current or former priests named in a 47-plaintiff case that the diocese settled for $10 million in 2008. He repeatedly had denied all abuse allegations.
Six lawsuits against the diocese involving OBrien are pending, and the diocese in July settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $2.25 million with the parents of a boy whose family claimed he took his own life 30 years ago because of repeated sexual abuse by OBrien.
Donald and Rosemary Teeman filed that lawsuit in 2011 after a man who served as an altar boy with their son, Brian, told them of the alleged abuse. Brian Teeman, 14, died of a gunshot wound in November 1983 at the familys home in Independence.
The settlement was the largest ever for the diocese in a single priest sexual abuse lawsuit. In addition to the dioceses settlement, OBrien settled for $2,500.
The story of Brian Teeman and three other altar boys was the subject of a three-day series, The Altar Boys Secret, that The Star published in December 2011.
Donald Teeman said he felt numb when he learned of OBriens death following the settlement in his case. Im just glad its over with, he said.
Attorneys from the law office of Randles, Mata & Brown, which represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, declined to comment. It was unclear Tuesday what effect OBriens death would have on the pending lawsuits.
Born and raised in Kansas City, OBrien attended St. Francis Xavier Elementary and Rockhurst High School, then Conception High School and Conception Seminary. After being ordained in 1950 at age 23, he served at several parishes, including St. Patricks in Kansas City, North; St. Elizabeths in Kansas City; and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Independence. He also was principal of St. Pius X High School from 1961 until 1968 and superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese from 1969 to 1971.
The diocese previously has told The Star that it received its first complaint about OBrien in September 1983 accusing the priest of sexual misconduct with a teenage boy. OBrien denied any wrongdoing, the diocese said.
OBrien was removed from his assignment as pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in October 1983 and was sent for psychological evaluation and treatment, the diocese said.
After completing treatment, OBrien returned to the diocese in June 1984 and was allowed to serve only as a part-time hospital chaplain, the diocese said. He continued in that position until 2002. Later that year, the bishop at that time, Raymond J. Boland, told OBrien that he could no longer present himself as a priest.
Jon David Couzens, the former altar boy whose story prompted the Teemans lawsuit, said he had mixed emotions about OBriens death. Couzens has his own lawsuit against OBrien and the diocese, which is scheduled for trial next year.
In one way, I would have loved to have seen him one last time, in the courtroom, face-to-face as a grown man, Couzens said.
To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.