Woman Accuses Priest of Abuse
Accounts of What Happened Differ, but a Woman Who Claims a Priest Assaulted Her Last Year Has Asked the Bishop to Remove Him from Ministry

By Stan Finger
Bradenton Herald [Wichita KS]
December 7, 2005

A Wichita woman and a national advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse on Tuesday delivered a letter urging the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita to remove a priest from ministry.

Peggy Warren wants the priest removed from the pulpit because, she said, he sexually assaulted her last year while he was stationed at her west Wichita parish, and she is afraid he will assault women at the two rural parishes he is now serving.

"I would not want any family to go through the hell my family has been through," Warren said outside diocesan headquarters near Central and Broadway.

In a move that leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called unprecedented, Bishop Michael Jackels held a press conference and acknowledged that Warren and the priest had been involved in an "inappropriate" relationship.

"This was not a case of clergy sexual abuse," Jackels said. "Rather, it was a relationship between priest and an adult woman which was both inappropriate and sinful, but nevertheless consensual."

Jackels said Warren was told that if she disagreed with the diocese's finding, she should take her accusation to the proper authorities.

Warren did that, filing a police report last April. She said Tuesday that a police detective told her he plans to present details of his investigation to the Sedgwick County district attorney's office next Tuesday.

Georgia Cole, a spokeswoman for the DA's office, said that detective is scheduled to meet with prosecuting attorneys next Tuesday, but she doesn't know what will be discussed in the meeting.

The Eagle is not identifying the priest or his parishes because he has not been charged with a crime. He did not return a reporter's phone calls seeking comment.

Warren claims that the priest assaulted her twice in the summer of 2004 -- once at her home and once while he was on vacation with her family.

Court records show Warren filed a protection from abuse order against the priest in August 2004. The Wichita diocese reached a settlement with her in June, agreeing to pay for counseling and reimbursement of expenses related to the family's association with the priest. Jackels said Tuesday that amount was $15,750.

The priest was put on medical leave in January and underwent treatment for several months. Jackels said he returned the priest to active ministry after being assured by counselors that his return to ministry would not endanger anyone.

"The priest is doing a good job as a pastor," Jackels said.

If criminal charges are filed, Jackels said, the priest will be placed on temporary leave pending the outcome of the case.

Warren said she decided to go public with her allegations after learning that the priest had been returned to active ministry, and seeing his photo with the bishop in the diocesan newspaper last month.

"I couldn't stay silent any more," she said.