For decades our legal system – both civil and criminal, at the federal, state and local level – has respected the privacy rights of proven and alleged child sex abuse victims. So has neary every journalist.
But not Bishop Robert Finn. Recently, he “outed” three Kansas City men who were sexually assaulted as kids by Kansas City Catholic priests. He should be ashamed. His flock should be outraged.
Finn’s lawyers recently put in the public court file a document that reveals the identities of these three victims. The three, along with dozens of other victims, are potential witnesses in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by parents of a boy who committed suicide after having been repeatedly molested by Msgr. Thomas O’Brien, a Kansas City diocesan priest.
Finn might well soon “out” these dozens of other victims too.
Finn’s stunningly callous legal move amounts to mean-spirited “hair-splitting.” It’s mean-spirited because it hurts these three victims and scares who-knows-how-many more. It’s hair-splitting because Finn makes a silly and meaningless distinction between victims who are plaintiffs and victims who are both plaintiffs and witnesses. It’s a distinction without a difference.
This cruel move is being done to help defend Msgr. Thomas O’Brien. O’Brien is considered by many to be Missouri’s most prolific predator priest. Dozens have accused him. Dozens have sued him. Dozens have settled cases involving him. He’s been suspended from active ministry for years. Church officials are reportedly trying to defrock him.
Here’s a summary of O’Brien’s abuse history, according to BishopAccountability.org:
“The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese claims it first received a complaint about O'Brien in 1983. O'Brien denied the abuse when confronted and was kept in ministry. Some former altar boys and alleged victims claim they reported O'Brien to the diocese in the 1970s. The earliest known allegation is from 1961, and the youngest victim is said to have been 7 years old. One alleged victim committed suicide at age 14. Along with fellow priest, Thomas Reardon, O'Brien's modus operandi is said to have been to ply boys with alcohol and marijuana and to show them pornography. He would use threats to silence them such as "you'll be kicked out of the church, your family will abandon you, and you will go to hell." The abuse is said to have occurred in parish rectories and during weekend trips to O'Brien's lake house north of Kansas City. O'Brien was a prominent priest in the diocese with several prestigious positions, including Superintendent of Schools. He was removed from parish ministry in 1983 after an allegation surfaced and was sent to treatment in New Mexico and Washington, D.C. He returned to the diocese in 1984 and worked part-time as a hospital chaplain until he was removed in 2002. At about that time five men accused him in a lawsuit of molesting them as children. He is believed to still be a priest in Dec. 2011.”
So virtually no one doubts or denies that he’s a dangerous serial child predator. Yet Bishop Finn helps O’Brien – and himself – by mounting an unprecedented full throttle legal defense that heaps more pain on those who have already suffered immeasurably.
Bishop Finn should call off his lawyers. He should reconsider how much he wants or should help a heinous child molesting cleric. If he chooses to fight, he should “fight fair.” He should respect what virtually every other adult in America respects: the confidentiality of sex crime victims who summon the courage to expose predators, protect kids, and prevent crime.
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