- One cleric defied Catholic hierarchy & helped victims.
- The other heads a parish that tangled with Archbishop Burke.
Two Catholic nuns and two controversial Catholic priests are being honored by the St. Louis chapter of Voice of the Faithful St.Louis (www.votf.stl.org).
In separate ceremonies last week, VOTFSL gave awards to Fr. Joseph Starmann and Fr. Gerry Kleba. Kleba pastor St. Cronin’s parish on the city’s south side and Starmann is a retired Jefferson City diocesan priest who presides at Masses at the Missouri Veterans Home in North County and at St. Joseph's Institute for the Deaf. Also honored last Tuesday evening at St. Vincent's parish was Sr. Jackie Toben, SSND for her work with post-incarcerated women.
Fr. Kleba’s parish had a pastoral minister, Sr. Louise Lears, who was chastised and dismissed by Archbishop Raymond Burke for attending a women's ordination service. When Fr. Kleba was called in to answer to Bishop Burke, Fr. Kelba asked why he wasn't ever brought in by the archbishop to compliment him on all the good work he had been doing at St. Cronan's.
Starmann is an outspoken advocate for clergy sex abuse victims and is one of just a handful of priests who has lobbied for legislative reforms to make it easier for child sex abuse victims to file lawsuits against their perpetrators and employers who ignored or concealed the crimes.
On May lst, Sr. Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, a 50 yr. jubilarian, who served the Archdiocese earlier in her career, was also honored in a private celebration with family.
Another organization, a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests nominated Starmann for the honor.
“Father Joe is a brave and caring man, and a humble hero,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “He is among a handful of priests in this country who has both helped protect the vulnerable and console those already wounded, even against the wishes of his church supervisors. We admire and appreciate him tremendously”
Starmann was tapped for the award because he has
- repeatedly and publicly addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse and cover up,
- personally given financial aid to help victims in need,
- advocated for victims who church officials tried to end therapy fund payments to,
- lobbied to reform Missouri’s archaic, predator-friendly child sex laws.
SNAP says that bishops almost always fight these legislative reforms. “By doing this, Fr. Starmann knowingly risked the wrath of Missouri’s top church officials,” said Mary Ellen Kruger of SNAP.
The proposal that Starmann lobbied for was passed by the Missouri General Assembly. It gives child sex abuse victims in Missouri more time to take legal action against the adults who molested them, as well as the employers or supervisors who ignored or concealed the crimes.
For years, Starmann was a co-host of the Sunday morning public affairs show “The Pastor’s Study” on KRCG TV in Jefferson City. Starmann worked at Catholic parishes in Columbia, Hermitage, Vienna, and Camdenton .
Now 78, Starmann lives in Winfield and helps out as the Catholic Chaplain at the Missouri Veterans’ Home, as Chaplain at St. Joseph’s Institute for the Deaf, and by saying mass at parishes in the St. Louis area. He can be reached at 636-566-8420.