Rev. Robert K. Larson—Assignment
Summary of Case: Larson has been publicly accused of sexually abusing 17 boys and has served the required 5 years of a 10-year sentence, after he pled guilty to 1 felony charge of indecent liberties with a minor and 3 misdemeanor charges of sexual battery. Those charges pertain to four victims abused in the mid-1980s. Five other victims, whom Larson has denied abusing, have committed suicide. Abuse ranges from sexual touching to sodomy; one of the victims, Eric Patterson, told his older sister that Larson had "practically raped" him when he was 12 years old. Patterson's parents and reporter Stan Finger of the Wichita Eagle were instrumental in the revelations that led to the criminal charges. See links to sources below. For 30 years (1958-88), Larson was a parish priest, pastor, high school teacher, college chaplain, and diocesan official. See assignment record below. For 8 years in the 1970s he was director of Catholic Charities and was director of a program to resettle Vietnamese refugees, positions he is alleged to have used to gain access to victims. See our notes on Larson and his managers below. Larson also used his access to altar boys methodically at Masses, weddings, and funerals. The Wichita diocese is alleged to have received many complaints about Larson beginning in the 1970s and admits to receiving multiple complaints beginning in 1981. Larson was treated for alcoholism (3 or 4 months of in-patient treatment in 1981) and sexually abusive behavior (22 months of out-patient treatment at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka in 1984-85, and 14 months of outpatient and halfway house treatment with St. Luke's Institute in 1988-89). Larson is accused of abusing a boy while driving to treatment at Menninger. Larson has been released from prison on 3/29/06 and was reportedly transferred to the St. John Vianney Renewal Center near Dittmer, Mo.
Ordained: March 22, 1958
Incardinated: Wichita KS
Removed: April 1988
|Larson with victim Eric Patterson, age 12, in 1982.||Attorney Dan Monnat with Robert Larson in 2001.||Larson in 2001.|
|Start||Stop||Parish||Town / Accusations||State||Position||Notes / Complaints / Suicides|
Mark K. Carroll was bishop 1947-63
Gerber came to Wichita as a new priest a year after Larson. See below for a parallel chronology of Larson's and Gerber's careers.
|1961||Christ the King||Wichita||KS||3/3, then 2/3. Pastor was Msgr. Joseph J. Gerstenkorn. Other priest was Rev. John Zich. In 1959, Gerstenkorn and Zich were both transferred to St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, with Zich becoming assistant director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and Larson became the number two priest at Christ the King. The new pastor was Rev. Quintin J. Malone, who was a synodal judge, an examiner of the clergy, and director of the Commission for Church Music; the other new priest was Rev. Denis Trayers.||
Parish school was run by 9 Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood; it had 253 boys and 230 girls in 1958-59.
|1961||1963||St. Andrew's||Independence||KS||2/2. Pastor was Rev. Francis P. O'Donoghue.||Parish school was run by 3 Sisters of St. Joseph; it had 83 boys and 66 girls in 1961-62.|
|1964||St. Cecilia's||Haysville (South Wichita)||KS||2/2. Pastor was Rev. Reinhard C. Eck.||No parish school.|
Gerber became assistant chancellor 05-31-63 (see bio)
|1971||Diocesan Youth Office||Wichita||KS||Director, with an office in the chancery, 445 N. Emporia Ave., Wichita|
Gerber became secretary to Byrne on 08-26-64.
Gerber became vice chancellor 01-07-65 and vice officialis in 1965
Byrne's departure was announced 08-02-67 (he was
installed in St. Paul-Minneapolis 09-27-67)
|1968||St. Mary Magdalen,
renamed Church of the Magdalen
in 1967 or 1968
||Wichita||KS||3/3. Pastor was Msgr. George N. Schmidt, who was a consultor, examiner of the clergy, and director of the Priests' Eucharistic League. The other priest was Rev. Michael J. Walsh. He was replaced by Rev. LeRoy Linnebur in 1965. In 1966 Linnebur was replaced by Rev. J. David Max.||Parish school was run by 13 Sisters of St. Dominic; it had 355 boys and 366 girls in 1964-65.|
Gerber named business manager of Catholic Advance newspaper 07-01-67
|1971||Apostolate of Radio and Television||Wichita||KS||Director. Listed as director of this new office in the same 1968 Directory that Gerber is first listed business manager of Advance, the diocesan newspaper.|
|1968||1976||Church of the Resurrection
• Daniel Romey alleged that L sodomized him in his early teens; Romey was abused during CYO outings and years of counseling beginning in late 1960s. Complaint in 1970s. Suicide 1978. L denies abusing Romey.
• Truck driver alleges he was sexually touched a dozen times, first in 1968 at age 13.
• Programmer alleges he was sexually touched several times in 1971 when a minor.
• Ray Relph was sexually touched in 1972 at age 14. Complaint 1981.
|KS||Pastor, 1/1.||No parish school.|
|St. Thomas Aquinas School
• South Carolina man alleges he was molested and mentions "a lot more" victims.
|1969||1983||Diocesan Tribunal||Wichita||KS||Notary. Appointed in the same year that Gerber (already vice officialis) was also named one of the three notaries|
Gerber chancellor 08-19-75
|1971||1979||Office of Catholic Community Development||Wichita
|1971||1979||Office of Family Life||Wichita||KS||Director|
|1971||1979||Office of Social Service||Wichita
• Refugee boys were improperly touched by Larson, alleged Karen Schneweis, whose supervisor promised to take her mid-1970s complaint to Bishop Maloney.
|KS||Director||• Karen Schneweis made a complaint in the mid-1970s to her supervisor at the diocesan Office of Social Service that Vietnamese boys were being improperly touched by Larson. She said he replied: ''Oh God, here we go again,'' and promised to take her report to the bishop|
|1971||1979||Claver Community Center
|1971||1979||Perpetual Help Center||Wichita||KS||Director|
Gerber appointed bishop of Dodge City 10-27-76
|1979||Catholic Center for the Aging||Wichita
• Engineer alleges he was sexually touched as a refugee in L's resettlement program while he lived with L for 3 weeks at age 17.
|1979||1980||Wichita State University
|1981||Pius X Center,
The dean of the Pittsburg deanery was Ivan C. Eck.
Relph called the diocese in 03-81 and made a complaint
that L had abused her husband. She also called her priest at Magdalen
parish in Wichita. The diocese says it has no record of Relph's call,
and that the Magdalen priest cannot comment. Three priests are listed
as working at Magdalen then: Revs. Charles W. Regan (pastor and a diocesan
consultor), Carl L. Johnson, and Peter J. Duke (in residence).
|1981||10-81||In-patient at facility in Michigan for 3 or 4 months for alcohol and psychiatric treatment.||MI||According to Gerber, this treatment was arranged by Maloney after two reports about L were received.|
• Wichita man alleges he was molested in 1981 at age 13.
|KS||2/2. Pastor was Msgr. Irvin F. Lampe, who was the Newton dean, an examiner of the clergy, and member of the Building Commission.||Parish school was run by 3 Sisters of St. Joseph; it had 147 pupils in 1981-82.|
Gerber is appointed bishop 11-23-82 and installed 02-09-83 after Maloney resigned 7/16/82 at age 70.
|09-83||St. Joseph's||Conway Springs
• Eric Patterson told his sister that L "practically raped" him at age 12; he told his therapist that L had abused him at least 9 times. Suicide in 1999. L denies abusing Patterson.
• Bobby Thompson was abused by L at age 8, mother Linda Munson believes. She wrote Gerber in 1990 about L and got evasive response. Suicide in 1996. L denies abusing Thompson.
The dean of the North Sedgwick deanery was Rev. Thomas McGread.
Parish school was run by 2 Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ; it had 110 pupils in 1982-83.
• Paul Schwartz was molested >20 times in 1984-86. L pled guilty to 1 felony count; sentence stiffer than controversial plea agreement
• Darren Razor was abused several times; L pled guilty to 1 charge of sexual battery.
• Robert Rodriguez was abused at age 19; L pled guilty to 1 charge of sexual battery.
• Another altar boy was abused ; L pled guilty to 1 charge of sexual battery.
• Gilbert Rodriguez told his brother Robert that L forced him and Paul Tafolla to perform oral sex on L. Suicide 1998. L denies abusing Gilbert Rodriguez.
• Paul Tafolla and cousin Gilbert Rodriguez were forced to perform oral sex on L, Gilbert told his brother Robert. Suicide 1998. L denies abusing Tafolla.
• Son of Loretta Kruse told his mother that L sexually touched him.
• 20-Year-Old Neighbor of L was showering when L tresspassed, undressed, and joined neighbor in shower. Neighbor and Kruse met with Gerber to complain.
Pastor, 1/1, then 1/2. In 1987, Rev. John J. Curran arrived a the second priest. Curran had previously been at Sacred Heart in Caney, but in the 1987 Directory, Curran is not indexed or listed at all, and an administrator is at Caney.
In 2000, Gerber admitted that L was removed in 1988 because of "several allegations," but the reason stated at the time in the parish bulletin was extreme exhaustion.
Throughout L's second assignment at St. Mary's, the Newton dean was vicar general Msgr. Charles F. Walsh, who replaced Lampe as dean in the same year that L returned to Newton from Conway Springs.
Parish school was run by 2 Sisters of St. Joseph; it had 127 pupils in 1983-84.
made observations and heard rumors that
got back to the chancery in 1983 and early 1984, prompting the diocese
to send L to Menninger.
Larson's first name is spelled Robet in the index and entry of the 1984 Directory.
In the 1988 Directory, the first one to list ardination years,
Larson's is given as 1958.
• L is alleged to have brought a Newton altar boy with him on drives to Menninger, and to have sexually touched the boy on the return trips.
|KS||Evaluation and out-patient treatment arranged by Gerber because of "wonderment" based on parishioner observations and a disturbing number of rumors.|
|04-88||12-88||St. Luke Institute||Silver Spring||MD||Evaluation and 8 months of treatment||
Larson is not indexed or listed in the 1989 Directory.
|01-89||12-89||St. Luke Institute Halfway House|
|1989||1992||On sick leave||In the 1990 and 1991 Directory, Larson's ordination year is dropped. It begins to be listed again in the 1992 Directory.|
|01-90||1998||Worked for a community action agency helping elderly shut-ins, and then for Family Services Association, developing a program for the elderly poor and working poor.||Elyria||OH||
Munson, mother of Bobby Thompson, wrote a letter to Gerber in 1990,
asking about Larson and possible abuse. Gerber's answer was evasive. The
diocese says it has no record of this correspondence.
|1992||1993||Leave of absence||In the 1993 Directory, the "On sick leave" category was eliminated, and priests on that list were moved to a "Leave of absence" list.|
|1993||2003||In the 1994-2003 Directory, Larson is not indexed or listed.|
|1998||1999||Moved to Michigan to be near family.||MI||• Gilbert Rodriguez shot himself on 09-09-98.|
|1999||2001||Part-time volunteer work||Willoughby||OH||
Patterson met with Rev. Robert Hemberger at the chancery in 02-99
and told him that her son Eric had revealed that L had abused him. Hemberger
said L had been removed in 04-88 and had been accused of abuse elsewhere.
Hemberger has denied mentioning other accusations.
|08-20-00||Wichita Eagle publishes article on abuse by Larson, precipitating criminal investigation|
|11-15-00||Larson charged with 4 counts of indecent liberties with a child and 1 count of sexual battery.|
|02-06-01||Larson pled guilty in controversial agreement before Harvey County District Court Judge Theodore Ice to 1 felony count of indecent liberties with a child and 3 misdemeanor count of sexual battery|
|03-29-01||Larson is sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison|
|03-29-01||03-29-06||Lansing Correctional Facility|
Gerber resigned 10-04-01
Thomas J. Olmsted succeeded 10-04-01.
|Motion for amended sentence denied|
Olmsted appointed bishop of Phoenix 11/25/03
|First parole request denied after public hearing|
Michael O. Jackels appointed bishop 01-28-05
|Second parole request denied.|
|3/29/06||St. John Vianney Renewal Center
Sources: Assignments are drawn from the Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy, 1959-2003), supplemented from news reports linked above. Below we provide a linked list of articles on the Larson case. Especially important articles include Stan Finger, Ex-Area Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse (8/20/00) in the Wichita Eagle, which broke the story. The remarkable genesis of that article is described in Rich Thames, Ending the Hurtful Silence about Clergy Sexual Abuse (2/4/01), which introduced a three-part series by Finger on Eric Patterson and his parents, Janet and Horace. Janet Patterson's own essays are important (see Patterson, "Hope", and the links there) as is Thomas Farragher, Through Kansas Parishes, A Trail of Suicide (7/18/02), and Stan Finger, In 5 Suicides, Families Blame Father Larson (7/21/02).
on Suspected Abuse of Children, Diocese of Wichita, from We-Are-Alert.com
(10/15/92; downloaded 8/30/00)
- Ex-Area Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (8/20/00) [with photographs]
- Personal Stories: Eric Anthony Patterson, by Horace and Janet Patterson, We-Are-Alert.com (8/30/00) [with photographs]
- Accountability: Basics 101, by Horace and Janet Patterson, We-Are-Alert.com (8/30/00)
- Ex-Priest Could Face Charges, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (9/17/00)
- Former Priest Facing Charges, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (11/15/00)
- More Charges Filed Against Former Priest, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (11/15/00)
- More Charges
Filed Against Former Priest, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (1/19/01)
- Ending the Hurtful Silence about Clergy Sexual Abuse, by Rick Thames, Wichita Eagle (2/4/01) [how the story broke]
- A Family's Trial of Faith: Losing Eric, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (2/4/01) [part 1 of an important 3-part series]
- Family's Faith Is Shattered: Sense of Betrayal, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (2/5/01) [part 2]
- The Long Road to Recovery, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (2/6/01) [part 3]
- Possible Deal: 90 Days in Jail if Judge Approves, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (2/7/01)
- Larson Plea Deal Infuriates Many, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (3/29/01)
- Ex-Priest Will Go to Prison: Breaking from a Plea Agreement, Judge Theodore Ice Sentences Robert Larson for Sex Crimes against Altar Boys, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (3/30/01)
- Sexual Abuse Victims Settle with Diocese, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (6/6/01)
- Ex-Priest Seeks Probation, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (7/26/01)
- Judge: Ex-Priest Must Stay in Prison, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (8/2/01)
- 'Some Day This Boy Will Become a Priest', in Wichita Catholic Advance (12/14/01) [detailed official summary of Bishop Gerber's career, with photographs]
- Tragedy Upon Tragedy, by Rod Dreher, National Review Online (5/15/02)
- Dallas Diary: In Town with the Bishops, by Rod Dreher, National Review Online (6/13/02)
- Impact Statement by David Clohessy, at USCCB Conference in Dallas (6/13/02)
- Mom Tells Bishops of Her Son's Suicide, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (6/13/02)
- Mother: "Eric Did Not Die in Vain", by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (6/16/02)
- "This Is Human Sacrifice", by Tom Beyerlein, Dayton Daily News (6/16/02)
- The Enemy Within, by Father Joseph Wilson, Catholic World News (7/4/02)
- Through Kansas Parishes, A Trail of Suicide, by Thomas Farragher, Boston Globe (7/18/02) [with photographs]
- In 5 Suicides, Families Blame Father Larson, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (7/21/02)
- Anger, Sorrow at Larson Hearing, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (7/26/02)
- Larson to Remain in Prison, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (10/15/02)
- Remembering a Tormented Soul, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (10/30/02)
- Group to Distribute
Anti-Abuse Leaflets Sunday after Mass, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (1/4/03)
- Group Helps Victims of Clergy Discuss Past, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (2/4/03)
- "Hope", by Janet Patterson, in AMDG / Roman Catholic Faithful (March 2003) [with photograph]
- Driven from the Flock, by Janet Patterson, in AMDG / Roman Catholic Faithful (March 2003) [with photographs]
- Sexual Abuse—The Church's Millstone, by Janet Patterson, in AMDG / Roman Catholic Faithful (March 2003)
- Family Assists Others in Memory of Eric: Mother Has List of 145 Clergy Abuse Victims Who Ended Their Lives, by Teresa Malcolm, National Catholic Reporter (6/4/04)
- Ex-Priest Up for Parole, by Chris Strunk, Newton Kansan (7/24/04) [with photographs]
- Victims Say Larson Should Serve the Rest of His Prison Sentence, by Chris Strunk, Newton Kansan (7/30/04) [with photographs]
- Ex-Priest's Parole Hearing Attracts Dozens, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (7/30/04)
- Abusive Priest Denied: The Parole Board Rules That Robert Larson Must Serve the Remainder of His Term, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (8/7/04)
- Faithful Must Protect Flocks from Abuse, Speakers Urge, by Ginnie Graham, Tulsa World (8/18/04)
- Group Offers Help to Abused, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (7/11/05)
- Once Free, Larson Could Be Locked Up, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (1/21/06)
- Former Priest to Be Released from Prison, by Staci Bivens, KSN News (1/22/06)
- Ex-Priest May Be Kept in Custody: The Attorney General Files to Have Convicted Child Molester Robert Larson Designated a Sexual Predator and Sent to Larned State Hospital, by Amanda O'Toole, Wichita Eagle, Kansas (March 24, 2006)
- Ex-Priest to Move to Care Center: After Serving Five Years for Sex Crimes, Robert Larson Will Be Moved to a Missouri Center Where He Will Receive Treatment and Continual Supervision, by Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle (4/4/06)
Larson and His Managers
1) Larson's career parallels that of Bishop Eugene J. Gerber for 15 years :
- In 1959-61, they were new priests in Wichita together (Larson began in 1958, Gerber in 1959), first in parishes five miles apart.
- In 1963, when apostolic administrator Byrne made Gerber assistant chancellor, Larson was made diocesan CYO director, and his office was in the old chancery with Gerber. (Gerber had been CYO moderator at his second Wichita parish, Magdalen).
- Also in 1963, Larson was brought back from Independence to St. Cecilia's in Haysville (South Wichita).
- In 1964, when Gerber became secretary to Byrne, Larson was moved to Magdalen, Gerber's old parish. Larson had been in Haysville about a year.
- In 1967, when Bishop Byrne made Gerber business manager of the diocesan newspaper Catholic Advance, Larson was made director of the Apostolate of Radio and TV. Gerber had become vice chancellor and vice officialis in 1965.
- Immediately before or after 8/22/68, when Gerber left St. Thomas Aquinas parish, Larson became a teacher at the school. Larson is accused of abusing boys at St. Thomas.
- In 1969, when Gerber became one of three notaries for the diocesan tribunal, Larson became a notary too.
- In 1971, when Larson became diocesan director of Catholic Charities, Gerber was well-established under Bishop Maloney as vice chancellor and vice officialis. Gerber had also been active in social services, as chaplain of Holy Family Center, the diocesan facility for retarded children located in west Wichita. Gerber was active in fund-raising for the center.
- In 1976, just before Gerber left for Dodge City to become bishop there, Larson was moved from pastor of Resurrection parish to the Catholic Center for the Aging. Larson is accused of abusing boys in both positions. Sometime in the 1970s, the diocese allegedly received two complaints about Larson, one from Daniel Romey's mother about abuse at Resurrection, and one from Karen Schneweis about abuse at the Office of Social Services.
2) While Gerber was down the road in Dodge City for six years (1976-82), Larson's career changed drastically, and then stabilized when Gerber returned. All Larson's social service appointments, including the directorship of Catholic Charities, ended in 1979. Thereafter, he had brief assignments at:
- Wichita State University (chaplain for 1 year, 1979-80)
- State College in Pittsburg (chaplain for 1 year, 1980-81)
- Several allegations were received in 1981, and Larson was sent by Bishop Maloney to a Michigan facility for alcohol and psychiatric treatment for 3 or 4 months.
- St. Mary's in Newton under pastor and dean Rev. Irvin F. Lampe (11 months, 10/81 to 9/2/82)
- At this point in the
chronology, Bishop Maloney resigned on 7/16/82. In less than two months, Larson
had been moved to:
- St. Joseph's in Conway Springs (administrator for 1 year, starting 9/2/82)
- Gerber was appointed bishop of Wichita on 11/23/82 and was installed on 2/9/83. Within 7 months, Larson was moved back to:
- St. Mary's in Newton (pastor for 4 1/2 years, 1983-88). Larson was sole priest until 1987, when John J. Curran arrived. Unusual arrangements were made by Gerber to install Larson in Newton and keep him there. Lampe was moved to another parish, so that Larson could become pastor, and vicar general Msgr. Charles F. Walsh was made dean of Newton instead. When parishioners' "observations" and "rumors" caused Gerber "wonderment," Larson was sent to Menninger Clinic in Topeka for 21 months of out-patient treatment, while he continued as pastor, despite Gerber's meeting with Loretta Kruse and a 20-year-old man who complained of bizarre sexual misconduct by Larson. Several additional complaints caused Gerber to remove Larson in 1988 and send him to St. Luke Institute.
3) Between Maloney and Gerber, the consultors were Msgrs. Charles F. Walsh, George N. Schmidt, Herbert N. Hertel, Vincent Hogan, Arthur A. Holtz; Revs. Ivan C. Eck, Edward J. Steinberger, Victor A. Bieberle, and Charles W. Regan. Msgr. Charles F. Walsh was the vicar general; Rev. Paul R. Alderman was the chancellor; and Rev. Robert E. Hemberger was the assistant chancellor. Gerber immediately brought in Rev. David B. Spexarth to replace Hemberger.
Priests in a Parish:
We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of
a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic
Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests
at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a
four-priest roster. See our sample
page from the Directory.
Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.
This assignment record collates Larson's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations against him as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegations we report. We remind our readers that in the U.S. judicial system, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Larson pled guilty in 2001 to abusing 4 boys, and through his lawyer has denied abusing five former altar boys who subsequently committed suicide: Daniel Romey, Eric Patterson, Bobby Thompson, Gilbert Rodriguez, and Paul Tafolla.
A Note on Nomenclature: We use the term "assignment record," instead of the more common "service record," because "service" is not an appropriate word for the activities of an abusive priest. Dioceses are often less than forthcoming about the activities of retired priests, but when we can determine those activities, we list them in these assignment records, particularly if they involve ministry. Retired priests remain under obedience to their bishop, and even the activities of laicized priests should be a concern to the diocese.
This assignment record was last updated on 2/25/06.