Dodge City Catholic Bishop Accused of Abuse
A Catholic bishop in Kansas is stepping aside from his post while an allegation of sexual abuse against him is investigated. We hope that this story will encourage others who may have knowledge or suspicions about abuse in the Diocese of Dodge City to come forward and make a report to local police and prosecutors.
With this allegation, Bishop John Brundgardt is the latest among 49 bishops and cardinals in the US who have been accused of sexual abuse. It takes tremendous courage to come forward with allegations against religious leaders, especially those who lead such a powerful, widespread, and wealthy institution. We hope that the victim who has come forward in this case is getting the help and support that they need during this trying time.
Prior to becoming the Bishop of Dodge City, Bishop Brungardt was the Chancellor in the Diocese of Wichita. That means he has had enormous influence and power in at least those two places. In effect, he has presided over half of the state's Catholics for the past 23 years.
Kansas has four dioceses and has admitted to at least 77 abusers. With the exception of the Diocese of Salina, SNAP's analytics suggest bishops underreport abuse in that state. In the Diocese of Dodge City, Catholic officials released a list of twelve abusers whereas SNAP’s internal records-keeping suggests a more likely number is between 30 and 40. Similarly, the Diocese of Wichita lists only 15 abusers whereas SNAP's analytics suggest there should be at least fifty. As Chancellor and then Bishop, there is no doubt Bishop Brungardt could have influenced the shortening of these lists. We suspect he certainly would never have admitted that he himself was accused.
With 260 current bishops in the United states, the ratio of abusive bishops to total bishops is about 1 to 5. Strangely enough, the ratio of abusive priests in the US (33,700 active vs 7000 abusers) is also a ratio of 1 to 5. To us, these numbers show that that sexual abuse reaches the very top of the clerical pyramid. Power does not equate to higher morals, but instead, it equates to a better ability to keep the lid on reports.
According to media reports, a Vatican office is "investigating" Bishop Brungardt. While we understand the importance of an internal investigation, we have no faith that such a review will reveal the full truth. Just last month, the Vatican finished its “investigation” into the disgraced ex-bishop of Cheyenne, WY, Bishop Joseph Hart. He has a trail of victims in Missouri and Wyoming and multiple police investigations have recommended charges be brought against him. Inexplicably, the Vatican let him off the hook.
It is best for a secular authority to handle this investigation, and we call on all interested parties to open their books so that the investigation is transparent and thorough. We heartened at the fact that the KBI is investigating this allegation, especially since they have been actively soliciting information about cases of clergy abuse for the past several years. We know that the KBI is continuing to field reports from survivors and we urge anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered abuse in Kansas to contact the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME or by email at [email protected].
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 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)