Faith

KC diocese should post accused priests’ names, say clergy abuse survivors group

SNAP wants KC diocese to post names of priests accused of sexual abuse

A group that represents survivors of clergy sex abuse last year called on the dioceses of Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., to post online the names of religious leaders credibly accused of abuse. Some dioceses already are.
Up Next
A group that represents survivors of clergy sex abuse last year called on the dioceses of Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., to post online the names of religious leaders credibly accused of abuse. Some dioceses already are.

A group that represents survivors of clergy sex abuse called on the dioceses of Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., to post online the names of religious leaders credibly accused of abuse.

David Clohessy, the St. Louis volunteer director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said some dioceses have already done so, including two in Missouri. But not nearly enough.

“Most bishops say as little as possible,” Clohessy said at a news conference Saturday in downtown Kansas City outside the Catholic chancery offices. “Most bishops post these lists only in the face of intense public pressure.”

He said some only post the lists when forced to as part of the terms of legal judgments or settlements.

The diocesan offices were closed Saturday and a spokesperson for the diocese of Kansas City, Kan., could not be reached for comment.

Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said via email that the diocese plans to release a list of names after the Missouri Attorney General’s Office completes a statewide investigation of the abuse allegations.

“The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is currently fully cooperating with the Missouri Attorney General’s investigation of Missouri dioceses. We are waiting for the result of that process in hope of publishing a credible list.”

Last month, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City released a list of 33 credibly accused priests and religious brothers, while pledging to aid victims and end the secrecy around the issue going forward.

Leaders of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic Diocese released three names in October, as part of an ongoing internal investigation that the diocese says will go back 50 years.

Clohessy said such efforts are better than nothing, but not as comprehensive as his group would like. Some dioceses in other states, he said, have released fuller databases that also include information on where accused priests are living now, similar to sex offender registries maintained by states.

He said SNAP hasn’t gotten much feedback from the Kansas City dioceses about why they have yet to make lists public. But he doesn’t believe it’s because they’re afraid more people will come forward and sue.

Most victims don’t want to sue, or even go public, he said, and those who do want to take legal action are often prevented from doing so by statutes of limitations. Even when cases do go to court, dioceses have insurance policies to help pay legal settlements.

“Bishops are somewhat afraid of litigation, but much less than people think,” Clohessy said.

Clohessy’s group also called Saturday’s news conference to identify six clergy members they found who once worked in Kansas City and have been accused of abuse.

They were found using an online database maintained by BishopAccountability.org, a Massachusetts nonprofit dedicated to collecting public reports of clergy abuse.

The site’s database currently lists 15 priests accused of abuse in the Kansas City, Kan., diocese and 26 in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Clohessy’s group was able to find the other six by cross-referencing the database’s listings from other states, but he said it isn’t able to identify every accused clergy member. Only the dioceses can.

Tom Viviano, who sued the St. Louis diocese in 2016 for abuse and said he suffered as a child, joined Clohessy at Saturday’s news conference and urged Catholic churchgoers to demand public lists.

“Ask and demand accountability,” Viviano said. “You who sit in the church pews and are quiet — you’re not helping.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.

  Comments