Another Priest Added to Oklahoma City’s List of Abusive Clerics

Another priest has been added to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese’s list of abusers. We call on Catholic officials to do outreach in every community where this priest worked to encourage other possible victims to come forward and make a report.

The case of Fr. Martin Leven is another example of the Church’s playbook to avoid scandal and minimize abuse allegations. Fr. Leven was first accused of abuse in 1993 and was sent to a church-run treatment facility in 1995. However, since the archdiocesan list does not include assignment dates or additional information on the allegation, we are unclear as to when the abuse was alleged to have occurred, only where.

The treatment facility found the allegation “possible.” Their recommendation was that the priest have no unsupervised contact with minors and seek intensive outpatient psychotherapy. Fr. Leven was then returned to parish ministry with the instruction that he “not be permitted to have ministerial contact with minors unless other adults are present.”

We do not know whether that instruction was actually enforced, or who was in charge of supervising its implementation. We do know that a recommendation is not enough to protect children from abuse, and that a second allegation of abuse by the priest, apparently from the same time period as the first, has also been “substantiated.” We are not told when the archdiocese received the second allegation, but Fr. Leven remained in parish ministry until 1999, in hospital ministry until 2013, and only had his faculties removed this year.

Church officials often repeat their claim that the issue of abusive priests peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But Fr. Leven was allowed to continue working as a priest until 2013, 20 years after the first allegation against him was made and 11 years after bishops adopted their “zero-tolerance” policy. Moreover, he remained able to represent himself as a priest for 27 years after the archdiocese received the first allegation.

This inaction by the archdiocese is appalling, and their response to the allegations levied against Fr. Leven appear to us to be short-sighted and reckless. The fact is, Catholic officials put their own need for priests above the protection of children, and in seems entirely possible that this decision may have resulted in more harm to innocents.

SNAP's internal analytics suggest the number of abusive priests in OKC should be at least double the current publicly acknowledged number of 13. Given what we have just learned about Fr. Leven, we fear it is possible there are others who are still hidden, perhaps even still working with children. We encourage any victim, witness, or whistle-blower that may have knowledge about clergy sexual abuse in Oklahoma to come forward, make a report, and help protect others from the scourge of abuse.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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