Twice in 6 months, an accused abuser is back near a school; SNAP responds
(For immediate release 1/23/2024)
We're deeply worried that Kansas' Catholic archbishop, for the second time in six months, is putting an accused child molester to work in or near a Catholic school. These moves are reckless and irresponsible. In August, Archbishop Naumann let Bishop Miege hire Phil Baniewicz, who was named in a 2005 civil sexual abuse lawsuit in Arizona, as its new president.
Now, Naumann is transferring Fr. John Pilcher to Holy Trinity parish, which has a parochial school, in Lenexa.
Our simple question: Why take the risk?
Most parishes in Kansas do not have elementary schools. It would be cautious and prudent to put Fr. Pilcher in one of those churches. But Naumann is sadly but predictably opting to roll the dice with the well-being of children. The church 'investigation' into the abuse report involving Fr. Pilcher was relatively brief. We see no evidence that Naumann or his staff did any real outreach effort, urging anyone with information about the allegations - whether victim, witness, or whistleblower - to come forward. (Sadly, very few Catholic officials ever do this. When it does happen, however, it can be very effective.)
So we have no choice but to err on the side of caution and skepticism, and to urge Catholics - in Topeka and throughout Kansas - to express their concern and be particularly vigilant.
For decades, the church hierarchy has done purportedly internal 'investigations' into accusations of all sorts against priests. The results have often been very problematic. Alleged offenders have been reinstated to parish work only to be removed again when more victims come forward. (See the case of Msgr. Craig Harrison in California.) In St. Louis, Fr. Alex Anderson was re-assigned to parish work despite facing at least four accusers. In Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger is in a parish right now despite facing at least three accusers. In Kentucky, Fr. Joseph Edward Bradley is in a parish today despite facing at least two accusers.
Is it possible that Fr. Pilcher is innocent? Certainly. Is it likely that he is? No. History, psychology, research, common sense - and several church officials themselves - acknowledge that false or mistaken child sex allegations against priests are false.
We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered any misdeeds by Fr. Pilcher or any other Catholic employee in Kansas to tell a trusted friend or relative, seek therapy, call law enforcement, and help protect other children.