Two Missouri bishops seek higher post

Two Missouri bishops seek higher post

They vie to head national abuse committee

SNAP ‘vigorously opposes’ head of KC diocese

With “hesitation,” group backs Jefferson City prelate

It admits KC’s Johnston, “despite failings, will likely be the winner

The nation’s largest support group for clergy sex abuse victims is backing one Missouri bishop over another as the two compete on Monday to head a national church abuse panel.

Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City is battling Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City for the chairmanship of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.  

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is “vehemently against” Johnston and is “not thrilled” with McKnight but believes he’s likely better than Johnston “when it comes to protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded.”

“Frankly, McKnight hasn’t been a bishop long and we’ve criticized him several times,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “But Johnston did a poor job in Springfield MO initially and is doing a poor job in Kansas City currently.”


McKnight released a list of accused abusive clerics almost a year before Johnston did.


SNAP says Johnston has “done virtually nothing to undo the damage that his predecessor did when he protected clergy who abused children,” nor done anything “above the legally required bare minimum, to safeguard kids.”

--In July, SNAP asked Johnston to ‘further restrict’ the ministries and activities of former KC Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of concealing abuse, and former KC priest Fr. Joseph Hart, who was promoted to bishop and is accused of molesting at least eight kids.

--In January, SNAP asked Johnston to add four names of credibly accused child molesting clerics to his list of such priests.

--In 2015, SNAP asked Johnston to “stop using hardball legal tactics” in abuse cases.

--In 2015, SNAP also asked Johnston to warn the public about two accused abusive priests who have moved or been sent out of state.

--In 2011, SNAP asked Johnston to warn his Springfield flock about one of Kansas City’s most prolific predator priests, Msgr. Thomas O’Brien, who was also in Springfield.


As best SNAP can tell, Johnston took none of these steps.

In 2011, SNAP asked Johnston to post predators’ names on his website.

(He finally did this a few months ago, though his list is far from complete.)


Earlier this years, Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight was one of two bishops praised by former SNAP executive director David Clohessy in an op ed in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent, Kansas City-based newspaper. Clohessy expressed support for these actions taken by McKnight:

--Held a news conference to disclose that a credibly accused Pennsylvania predator priest, Fr. John A. Pender, had worked in his diocese

--Read a statement at a parish urging victims of convicted molester Fr. Fred Lenczycki to come forward, even though the priest only lived at a local rectory and apparently never had permission to work in the diocese.

--Publicly acknowledged that another out-of-state predator, Fr. Kenneth J. Roberts, lived in his diocese, even though Roberts was also not given permission to work here.

--Included on the names of accused men who belong to religious orders on his ‘credibly accused clerics’ list.

--Pledged to accept no more religious order clergy into his diocese unless their supervisors had listed proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics on their websites

--Revealed how much his diocese spent on this crisis: $4.7 million since 2003 and roughly $2.3 million in the years prior to that.

But SNAP has criticized McKnight for leaving at least four credibly accused child molesting clerics off of his list:  Fr. Louis Senesac, Fr. John C. Baskett, Fr. Fred A. Lenczycki, and Fr. Kenneth J. Roberts.


SNAP urged both prelates, regardless of how the election turns out, to “aggressively reach out to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes” in their dioceses and to “expand their inadequate lists of credibly accused child molesting clerics.”


For more info:  David Clohessy, (314-566-9790, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

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