For immediate release: Friday, Nov. 7, 2013
A cleric at a Kansas City Catholic school has been fired allegedly because of one 'suspicious' and sexual picture on a school computer, church officials say. We are troubled and skeptical.
Again, Bishop Robert Finn and his staff delayed in telling police and the public about the disturbing photo.
Again, Bishop Robert Finn and his staff told the smallest number of people possible about the report of suspected sexual crimes – only the current parents of the school.
Again, Bishop Robert Finn and his staff are withholding key information. They refuse to say whether there have been other reports of sexual misdeeds or crimes by Brother Richard Geimer, a Christian brother who spent 28 years as a teacher and principal at Archbishop O'Hara High School.
It’s also troubling that Fox 4 TV reports that the photo was found on Oct. 25 – two weeks ago.
And it appears that Catholic church and school officials did not voluntarily disclose this allegation to the public. It seems that journalists obtained a copy of a letter sent by the school to parents of current students.
We believe that Bishop Finn should have promptly held a news conference or sent out a news release. Finn should have alerted the entire community, not just those who might be in contact with a possible sex offender right now. We are alarmed that even now, despite decades of clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Kansas City – involving at least 24 clerics – Bishop Finn still insists on telling as few people as possible, even in a case where the alleged wrongdoer has been fired and is being investigated by the FBI.
Channel 41 reports that Finn’s staffer “couldn't comment” on whether this is the first time anyone had complained about inappropriate behavior by Brother Geimer. Finn’s refusal to answer this simple but important question is troubling. And it severely undercuts Finn’s claim that he and his top staff are “reforming.”
We strongly suspect that there have been other reports about inappropriate or illegal actions by Brother Geimer. And we strongly suspect that more than one photo led to his dismissal.
News of the photo and reported firing of Brother Geimer broke yesterday (Thursday) but he was allegedly ousted two days before, on Tuesday, according to a Catholic official.
KSHB reports that “The church moved quickly.” It should say “The church SAYS IT moved quickly.” No one but Finn’s staff knows when the report of the suspicious photo was made to church officials. Until there is independent confirmation of what Finn or his staff CLAIM, it’s wrong and reckless to present those claims as fact.
Since being convicted for hiding evidence of child porn, Finn has embarked on a vigorous and expensive public relations campaign. As part of that “damage control” effort, Jennifer Valenti was hired. She’s doing what she’s paid to do: defend Bishop Finn and his staff.
In the Brother Geimer case, she makes two self-serving claims that further undercut her credibility. First, Valenti claimed that the training the diocese offers on abuse “was effective.”
There is, of course, no proof that the student even got the training or that the training played any role in her decision to tell her mom. (In fact, if the training is truly effective, the student or her mom would have called police, not church officials.)
Second, Valenti said “I think historically in the church there has been a tendency for allegations to be funneled through the church first and I think we have learned as a church that's not the best way to handle things,"
But she’s got it backwards. This report, like hundreds over decades, WAS in fact “funneled through the church first.” A mom reportedly told a Catholic school principal. That Catholic principal reportedly told his supervisor, the Catholic superintendent. Those two Catholic officials reportedly told a Catholic bishop. Those three Catholic officials reportedly decided to fire the Catholic cleric.
At some point, the police were called. But it’s clear that the Catholic parent didn’t call them. And we doubt that the Catholic principal and Catholic superintendent and the Catholic bishop called as promptly as they could and should have. It's highly likely that Finn and his top aides waited at least several hours – perhaps days - before calling.
Why does this matter? Because every hour child sex crimes are hidden gives predators time to destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers and sometimes even flee the country. Brother Geimer might have had even more child porn than Fr. Shawn Ratigan did, and might have deleted all of it in the hours that principal John O'Connor and superintendent Dan Peters and Bishop Finn delayed in calling the police.
We hope O’Connor will be more forthcoming about this case than Finn and Valenti are being.
Finally, we applaud the girl who told her mom about the suspicious sexual photo. We’re glad the mom took action. But she should have called the police, not the school. And the principal should have called the police, not Bishop Finn’s staff.
By their own admission, Kansas City Catholic officials are still doing what they’ve done for decades – initially handling suspected child sex crimes quietly and internally. Later, evidently, sometimes the police will be involved and presumably sometimes not.
This is not reform. This is frightening.