SNAP Statement on Fr. Stephen Wise
We are child sex abuse victims who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our goal is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We’re here for three reasons today:
First, to announce a new civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit against another KC priest….
Second, to push KC’s Catholic bishop to honor his promises and defrock the alleged predator….
Third, to urge anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes to call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing….
In this new lawsuit, Fr. Stephen J. Wise is accused of orally and anally sodomizing a boy for roughly two years, when the child was 10-12 years old, at Presentation parish in Lee’s Summit around 1982.
This is the second time Wise has faced a civil child sex abuse lawsuit. The earlier suit, brought in 2008, was settled out of court.
Fr. Wise is apparently now a Lee’s Summit businessman. We believe he belongs behind bars.
For the safety of kids, we beg anyone with information or suspicions about Fr. Wise’s crimes to call law enforcement immediately. That’s the best way to keep kids safe – prosecute and jail child sex offenders.
Also for the sake of public safety, we urge Bishop Finn to live up to his 2008 pledge to have Wise defrocked.
In August of 2008 as part of a larger settlement involving 12 accused predator priests, Bishop Finn promised to work to defrock Fr. Wise and two other offenders. But over the past three years, we have seen no evidence that this has happened, despite claims by the church hierarchy that defrocking occurs more quickly these days.
Catholic officials often say they don’t defrock child molesting clerics “because when we keep them on the payroll, we can supervise them and keep them away from kids.” Mostly, that’s nonsense, because bishops rarely use their power to monitor predators.
This is especially the case with Wise. He has apparently not worked as a priest since 1986. He is now reportedly married. He evidently heads Wise Investment Company at 701 SW Williams Street in Lee’s Summit MO. There’s no evidence or even claim by KC Catholic officials that they are in any way “supervising” or “monitoring him.”
So why won’t they defrock him?
KC church officials will blame Rome. “The Vatican moves slowly,” they will claim. That’s a half truth at best. Finn’s no dummy. He has clout in church circles. We believe that if he really put forth some effort that more of these child molesting clerics would be ousted from their priestly status.
Why does that matter? Because pedophile priests use their priestly titles as a way to get close to kids and a way to profess their alleged innocence. “If church officials think I’m guilty,” they often say, “why haven’t they defrocked me? See, the bishop is just scared of more bad publicity and lawsuits. That’s why he suspended me. . ” As a result, at least some parents believe a predator priest is innocent. And they say “Sure, Father, go ahead and take Sally to the movies” or “Father, do you mind watching Johnny for a bit while I run to the store?”
On the other hand, few parents would trust their child to a priest if they heard an honest bishop say “We’re convinced this priest molested kids. That’s why we paid a settlement to one of his victims. That’s why we’re urging the Vatican to defrock him. And that’s why we’re urging Catholics to write church officials in Rome to speed up this process.”
But that’s never happened in KC. And it’s not happening now. Finn continues to do the absolute bare minimum. And often, he doesn’t even do that, choosing instead to make promises and then break them, recklessly creating doubt about a credibly accused child molesting cleric and essentially helping him gain access to even more vulnerable kids.
Finally, the victim in today’s suit and is serving a sentence for an adult sex crime. We don’t know the details of that. We sympathize with very victim of every crime, no matter who the offender may be.
Sadly, some victims – especially those who don’t get therapy from professionals, support from self help groups, and compassion from their relatives – end up facing criminal charges themselves. That doesn’t necessarily impact their credibility. The overwhelming majority of those who are victimized as kids by clergy at some point engage in destructive or self destructive behaviors, often trying to dull the on-going horrific pain that stems from their childhood trauma. This is not to “excuse” any wrongdoing by any victim of abuse. It’s just a tragic reality.
We commend this brave, wounded man for taking action to help expose wrongdoers in the church – both a predator priest and secretive, reckless, self-serving church officials. We believe this courageous step today will safeguard other vulnerable children. And we hope this step today will also bring this victim and his loved ones some measure of healing and justice.
Barb Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 503-0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com, David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com, Mike Hunter of Kansas City, SNAP KC Leader, (913) 634-6490, firstname.lastname@example.org