Two Missouri dioceses criticized in new AP abuse investigation
Both the St. Louis archdiocese and the Kansas City diocese come under fire in a lengthy and alarming new Associated Press investigation into secretive, internal church panels that supposedly 'investigate' abuse reports. We call on bishops in both places to immediately revamp their boards and be more honest about who’s on them and how they operate.
In St. Louis, members of Archbishop Robert Carlson’s 'review board’ are not public identified. So it’s possible a fearful abuse victim could walk into a meeting and see their boss, neighbor or next door neighbor on that panel. This scares and discourages many victims from ever reporting the priest, nun, bishop, seminarian, brother or monk who sexually assaulted them. And that, in turn, keeps kids in harm’s way.
In Kansas City, members of Bishop James Johnston’s ‘review board’ “didn't always tell the review board about complaints against priests or give members all the evidence, according to an outside report commissioned by the diocese in 2011,” the AP reports. “Such failures enabled one priest (Fr. Shawn Ratigan) to stay on duty for several months after church workers found child pornography on his computer. In the end, he was caught again with more pornography and arrested, and Bishop Robert Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse to secular authorities.”
The KC board now includes a nun, a priest and two lawyers. We have little or no faith that meaningful reforms have been taken by Johnston or his hand-picked panel.
We believe the flaws identified in the AP report are not accidental, isolated ‘mistakes’ or ‘oversights.’ Bishops and their lawyers are smart. They intentionally set up these panels to help with public relations and legal defense. They deliberately give the panels little power or access to information. Their goal is to give the appearance of change, rather than making actual change.
These panels rely heavily - sometimes exclusively - on information from clerics, usually resulting in "garbage in, garbage out." Their members are usually well-intentioned but devout and trusting Catholics with impressive resumes but lacking any real independence.
CONTACT: David Clohessy, SNAP Missouri (firstname.lastname@example.org, 314-566-9790)
(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)