MO--Victims beg new KC bishop to take “tangible prevention steps”
For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 3
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tomorrow, Kansas City gets a new Catholic bishop. He’ll seem “kinder and gentler” than his predecessor but won’t be any better at protecting kids, healing victims, or deterring or exposing cover ups.
We’d love to be proven wrong about this. If ever there were a Catholic diocese in need of a truly courageous and innovative leader in children’s safety, it’s Kansas City.
We urge parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public to keep an open mind but be skeptical about Bishop James Johnston when it comes to children’s safety.
He is no friend of kids or victims. His record on clergy sex crimes and cover ups is disappointing. Pope Francis has made another poor choice.
--Weeks ago, we urged Johnston to reach out to anyone who may have been hurt in Springfield by two predator priest, Fr. Michael Charland and Fr. Thomas Meyer, who’d recently been “outed” as predators in another state, but who had worked or spent time in Johnston’s Springfield diocese.
(As best we can tell, Johnston ignored our request.)
--Four years ago, we urged Johnston to reach out to anyone who may have been hurt in his diocese by Missouri’s most notorious serial predator priest, Fr. Thomas J. O'Brien, who faces more than two dozen civil lawsuits accusing him of molesting kids. Most of them have been settled. O’Brien has sometimes committed these crimes in concert with other clerics. He has been forbidden to present himself as a priest. And recently, he was sued again.
(As best we can tell, Johnston ignored our request and did not reply to our letter.)
--Johnston refused to remove a statue of a bishop who admitted molesting one boy.
--He publicly praised that bishop, making no mention of victims, when that prelate passed away.
Thirty bishops have posted pedophile priests' names on their websites. This is, we believe, a bare minimum public safety step. Kansas City Catholic officials refuse to do so, even though there are at least 25 KC priests who have been publicly accused of molesting kids.
We hope that Johnston will quickly
– post predators' names on his diocesan website and in parish bulletins,
-specifically and clearly reach out to
– begin personally visiting each parish where a pedophile priest worked, begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police.
And we hope that KC victims, witnesses and whistleblowers will continue to seek help from independent sources – therapists, police, prosecutors, attorneys and support groups like ours – rather than blindly trust Catholic officials.
(NOTE: Springfield Missouri, which Johnston recently headed, was once headed by Bishop Bernard Law, later the disgraced head of the Boston archdiocese who resigned for concealing predator priests.)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)