Sunday, June 5, 2011

Should Priests and Deacons Be Concerned About Handling of Sex Abuse Allegations In Kansas City

UPDATE- I pick up on this again in another post at Is Bishop Flynn of Kansas City Getting a Fair Hearing?

The Diocese of Kansas City has had a rough couple of weeks dealing with priests that are accused of sexual misconduct. One was arrested on Child porn charges. How that case was handled by the Church was and is of some debate. However another Priest has been removed from Public Ministry after a review of the Diocese review panel.

The Bishop made a statement on these sad affairs. See Message from Bishop Finn to All in Our Diocese

The following message from Bishop Robert Finn will be read at Masses in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph this weekend:

These past few weeks all of us have endured the consequences of our human failure. The destructive sins of a few and the serious lapses in communication have caused us shame, anger, and confusion.

There are victims that are hurting, and others who have been left vulnerable by our processes. As you know, in the past two weeks one priest was arrested and we removed another from ministry. They are the first sitting pastors to be removed in our Diocese in more than 20 years.

These are sobering realities, particularly for those who knew and trusted them. We are assessing what went wrong and applying our analysis as we move forward. This past week, I met with our Independent Review Board chairman and discussed the objectivity of our decision processes. I have also met with parishioners, our priests and Chancery staff, as well as the media. These meetings and discussions will continue.

As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have --- and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters.

While we must deal with these difficult and trying issues we also must give thanks for the daily accomplishments of our lay faithful, priests and others for the many good works that continue on behalf of neighbors, sick or poor, young or old..............

Now I want to focus on this second case that is happened after the all out media frenzy and outrage over the Priest that was arrested on Child porn. That case involves Father Michael Tierney. See Diocese removes priest from KC church over sex allegation for the full story. I will excerpt parts.

Bishop Robert Finn has removed a priest from his duties as pastor of Christ the King parish in Kansas City and from all other public ministry, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph announced Thursday night.

In a statement released shortly before 8 p.m., the Roman Catholic diocese said its review board, which is charged with assessing sexual abuse allegations against priests, had received “credible reports alleging sexual misconduct with minors by Father Michael Tierney in the early 1970s and 1980s.”

One person making a complaint recently met with the review board, the diocese said.

“After hearing this report and meeting with Father Tierney, board members also considered information concerning two other individuals,” the diocese said in its statement. “Each declined to meet with the review board but made similar claims of misconduct by Father Tierney. One of these individuals originally reported wrestling with Father Tierney, but in a 2010 lawsuit claimed that he had been groped.”

As a result, the review board recommended that Finn take action against Tierney, the statement said.

“Father Tierney continues to deny these allegations, but has cooperated fully in this process,” the diocese said. “Bishop Finn accepted and implemented the board’s recommendation effective June 2, 2011.”

Tierney could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Tierney was accused in a civil lawsuit last year of molesting a 13-year-old Missouri boy in 1971. The lawsuit alleged that the abuse occurred while the boy and Tierney were moving items at the home of the priest’s mother.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, a lawyer representing Tierney said his client had done nothing wrong.

According to the lawsuit, the boy told Tierney that boys at St. Elizabeth Parish in Kansas City had a nickname for the priest: “Father Pumpkinhead.”

“Father Tierney rushed the boy, tackling him and holding him down while he forcibly and against the boy’s will touched and fondled the boy, rubbing all over his body, including his private areas,” the lawsuit said. “(The boy) repressed all memory of these events until approximately 2008.

In a written statement, a spokeswoman for the diocese said the plaintiff contacted the church anonymously, through a third party, in 2008. Diocesan officials invited the individual to meet to discuss the complaint, “which was not described as sexual in nature,” according to the statement. The person declined.

Diocesan officials also interviewed Tierney, who denied any sexual misconduct against that individual or any other minor, the statement said. And no other allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against Tierney, the diocese said at the time.

“He will continue to serve as pastor of Christ the King parish, and he and the diocese will defend the lawsuit vigorously,” the statement said.

In a civil lawsuit filed in February against another priest, Tierney was accused of making “lewd and inappropriate comments” to a boy who was allegedly being molested by the priest. Tierney was not named as a defendant in that lawsuit.

In April, the diocese said its review board did not find any credible claim of sexual abuse involving Tierney. That was in response to calls by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for the Jackson County prosecutor to launch a grand jury investigation into what it called priest sex crimes and cover-ups in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The national group requested prosecution of the priest abuse cases and an investigation into church leaders’ response to those complaints.

David Clohessy, the group’s executive director, said that even though 18 current and former priests in the diocese had been accused by 80 people, none had been prosecuted.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said at the time it had stepped up its investigations of allegations made against priests, unless accusers refused to cooperate. Summers said Finn, since assuming leadership of the diocese in 2005, had reaffirmed his commitment to protect children and involve the community in resolving complaints of abuse by priests.

The Kansas City lawyer who filed the lawsuit last year against Tierney was stunned to hear about Tierney’s removal as pastor on Thursday.

“Unbelievable,” Rebecca Randles said. “We applaud the church’s move in dismissing him from the ministry but wonder why it’s taken so long.”

Now there is a lot of smoke here. We do have a case that involved "repressed memories" . As we have seen in Louisiana some priests have had to file counter suits in these cases involving "repressed" memories and it was found later that the Priest was innocent. The use of repressed memories is problematic to say the least.

In April the Review board could find no credible evidence. After this we have two other cases of people that did not meet with the review about alleged incidents in the 70's and early 80's. Now boom he is removed from public ministry.

Now I am not on the review board and I don't know what information they had. We do know the priest is denying this.

Over at First Things there is a good piece called Protecting the Innocent. The piece deal with the rights of the accused (the clergy and also lay people). It points out there are some major problems.

There is a feeling and fear among some priests that Bishops will be too quick to throw them under the bus if an accusation is made. May I suggest that it will not take too many cases involving married Deacons with families that they may join the fear /outrage camp. With these large classes of married Deacons we are seeing nationwide that day is coming.

There is a also a fear of Dallas Charter creep. That is priests and other can be removed from ministry or in these fast track procedures when the charge is even non sex abuse related.

Now I am not questioning while these charges are being investigated that the Bishop should not have removed the Priest from public ministry. Also as I have stated I don't know of course what the review panels know.

I assume that since these allegations are deemed "credible" there will be a further investigation so the Diocese can get to the bottom of this and Justice will be served. "Credible" does not mean guilty. I have argued that credible is a standard that less than probable cause.

If we look at the time line it appears in less than a month without being able to meet with the victims involving 2 incidents that happened DECADES ago the review board has found the allegation credible. That seems a incredibly short of amount of time for the accused Priest to mount any defense or to arrange any counter testimony for something that is alleged to have happened 30 or 40 years ago.

Add to that the Bishop's troubling statement. As to the priest that is accused of having child porn of course he has the presumption of innocence. Though in reality there is a criminal case with with real material evidence. The accusations against Father Tierney's case seems a lot less grounded in evidence than that. YET the Bishop in his statements is basically saying Father Tierney is guilty. That is a problem.

The priest in question might be very guilty. However just looking at the time line of these accusations raises major red flags. Again two charges from decades ago were brought to the review panel basically a month ago. Now we have the Bishop making a statement talking about their destructive sins. Again how can anyone mount any sort of counter defense in this one month time.

Besides the time frame I am curious about the next step as to the priest in question. Since these allegations are deemed credible I assume an further investigation will happen .

If we are going to have a procedure that deals with sexual abuse (as well as "Crimes" ) of the clergy and indeed other laity that work for the Church we are going to have to have fair due process. I suspect it will take accusations against non celibate clergy (DEACONS) that have families to support for this problem to be looked at. People might be able to ID with them more than these mysterious celibates.

Also what about the new Anglican Catholic structure that is coming online. We shall be having a considerable number of marriedpPriests coming into the Church I expect. Those priests will be under an Ordinariate with a Bishop that reports directly to the Vatican. In other words these Priests will not be under the jurisdiction of any Bishops .

SNAP, the main Catholic abuse survivors group that we see in the papers, seems to have a lot of non interest curiously about the Ordianriate. If the UK is any indication we shall have a lot of Anglican tradition priests fast tracked to the Catholic Priesthood.

Will the new Ordinariate adopt the Dallas Charter? It is my understand the Eastern Catholic Churches in the United States have not. Will we be getting the FULL personal files of these on the fast track clergy from their former employer? I suspect for legal reasons the answer to that is a big NO. How will allegations of abuse be dealt with there. Will there be a difference because for the immediate future the Ordianriate will have FAR MORE married priests families than these mysterious celibates?

Returning to the Catholic Church in the USA in its normal structure it will take the inevitable accusations against the increasing number of married Deacons for us to perhaps iron out how we can get a process that protects children, gives Justice, and protects the rights of the accused.


PatO said...

Finn in Kansas City is horribly guilty of hiding a known pedophile. Some Catholics don't care, but its continued proof that the Catholic church doesn't care about child rape.

The Catholic church doesn't practice the religion, and the long term affect of that will be devastating to its future.

The Catholic church

- raped children
- lied about it
- ignored the victims

However, they never counted on the Internet and social media to spread the truth. The next couple of generations of teenagers will have the Internet and social media on their phones, and will see be horrified by the Catholic church's lack of concern for the children that they raped.

Every teenager has points in their life where they have make a decision about whether to follow the difficult path of Catholicism or take an easier path, where the easier path allows sex, lying, cheating, stealing, doing drugs, et cetera.

Guess what - this Catholic church just paved that path, but proving that following the Catholic church means followers child rapists, liars, and heartless leaders who ignored the victims of child rape.

The most intelligent teenagers will leave in the next generation or two, and the less intelligent ones will be gone in the generation or two after that, as they will look back on the Catholic church as a horrible institution that somehow convinced 1 billion people that child rape, lying, and ignoring victims was somehow ok.

These church leaders have doomed the religion by breaking all of its laws in a colossal, catastrophic way. I wonder what God's punishment for that will be?

James H said...

The Catholic Church cares about child rape. Heck in the first case they even went o the police with their concerns on the photos and were asking guidance.

PatO said...

James, you are absolutely wrong. You are distorting the truth, probably because you heard it from the Catholic church.

They did not go to the police. They did not show photos, or say that there were hundreds of photos.

They went to an off duty police officer at a diocese function, and described a photo to him. They didn't give an accurate description.

Then they gave the computer to Ratigan's family to destroy the evidence, which in incomprehensible to a law abiding citizen.

You can't trust what you hear form the Catholic church.

Athelstane said...

Hello PatO,

Is there a church that you believe does handle these kind of cases well? If so, how do they do it?