Diocese Pays Settlement Re Naples Predator Priest
September 3, 2015
Diocese pays abuse settlement
Cleric is long time Naples resident
Victim is veteran head of support group
Pedophile priest worked in nine Missouri towns
Man worries that predator “may still be hurting kids now”
More than 25 years after he first reported his childhood sexual abuse to mid-Missouri Catholic officials, a St. Louis man has received a settlement stemming from his suffering at the hands of a priest who lives in the Naples area.
David Clohessy, the long time executive director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, approached a Jefferson City diocesan staffer last November about “the effects of (the) betrayal” he suffered at the hands of Fr. John Whiteley.
In January, Clohessy met with two church employees, Sr. Kathleen Wegman and Mike Berendzen. He asked the diocese to post the names of “proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics” on parish websites and to warn Catholics in Florida about Whiteley, who lives in Naples. He also asked for $200,000 for therapy and medical expenses.
Several email exchanges followed and last week, the diocese sent Clohessy a check for $40,000. Clohessy had to sign a release form forbidding him from ever suing the diocese, he said.
“I asked Bishop John Gaydos for half a dozen steps to protect kids and warn others about Jeff City predator priests but was completely rebuffed,” he said. “I’ve spent way more than $40,000 on therapy alone. Still, I’m grateful.”
It’s “sad and ironic,” he says that he had to approach diocesan officials. Catholic bishops and church abuse policies routinely talk of doing “outreach” to those hurt by priests.
“In nearly 30 years, I don’t recall ever getting so much as a Christmas card from any of the hundreds of Catholic employees of Jeff City parishes. They could have kept on ignoring me, as they’ve done for decades, but at least Mike did respond when I emailed him,” Clohessy said.
In his work with SNAP, Clohessy said he actively discourages victims and others from talking with church officials. At best, Clohessy says, it’s usually a waste of time. At worst, it’s re-victimizing and enables Catholic staff to better conceal crimes and silence victims.
“More kids are safe and more truth is revealed when victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and concerned parishioners call police, prosecutors and journalists instead of church employees,” he stressed. “But I hope if others learn a lesson here, it’s that persistence pays off. If other victims opt to reach out to Catholic staffers, I hope they’re more successful than I was in getting tangible reforms and warnings, not just a check.”
Clohessy says Fr. Whiteley repeatedly molested him between the ages of 12 and 16 when he attended St. Pius X church in Moberly. He repressed the memories for years, he says. Around 1990, he wrote then-Bishop Michael McAuliffe twice but received “very cold, terse and unhelpful replies,” Clohessy said.
In 1991, he sued the diocese using the name “John Doe.” Within days, McAuliffe “outed” Clohessy to the Columbia Tribune.
A few years later, the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out the lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired.
Why did Clohessy seek a settlement now, after all these years?
“As I age and my kids age, I’m gradually becoming even more aware of what was taken from me and from us because of a serial predator priest and a sick clerical system,” he said. “I may well end up going to therapy on and off for the rest of my life.”
He says that three of his brothers were also assaulted by Fr. Whiteley. One of them, Kevin, went on to attend a controversial Missouri seminary, St. Thomas in Hannibal, whose director, then-Fr. Anthony O’Connell, became a bishop and admitted molesting a student in 2002.
Kevin became a priest and was sued for alleged child sex crimes. At least one suit was settled out of court.
Fr. Whiteley worked at churches in Rolla, Kirksville, Novinger, Adair, Rhineland, and Starkenburg. In 1985, Fr. Whiteley joined the 5503rd Army Reserves. He was also a police officer in Rhineland.
Twice, Fr. Whiteley worked at the Newman Center on University of Missouri campuses in Rolla and Columbia. He also worked at Fulton State Hospital and the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics and the diocesan headquarters.
He attended Kenrick Seminary and grew up in St. Joan of Arc parish in south St. Louis city.
“I’ve long since forgiven him for hurting me, my siblings and my parents,” said Clohessy. “It’s harder to forgive Bishop McAuliffe, Sister Ethel-Marie Biri, Randy H. Kollars, Sister Mary Margaret Johanning and the dozens of other current and former church staff who ignored or hid child sex crimes by the 20 publicly accused child molesting clerics in the diocese.”
Clohessy also expressed gratitude to Donna Cox of Rolla (573-364-5225 home, 573 647 6021 cell), a long-time youth retreat leader who reported Fr. Whiteley and five other abusive priests to church officials but was ignored and later fired. (Of those she reported, all but one have since been publicly accused of abuse and suspended from parishes. They are Fr. Manus P. Daly, Fr. John H. Fischer, Fr. Stephen L. Faletti and Fr. Kevin P. Clohessy, David’s brother.)
“Donna was one of the first to believe and support me,” Clohessy said. “She’s an absolute hero.”
He also says he’s grateful to Mike Wirtz, another victim of Fr. Whiteley, who spoke publicly about his experiences shortly after the first suit against Clohessy sued Fr. Whiteley.
“I feel a strong bond with Chris Dixon, Mark McAllister, Michael Wegs, and so many others who have suffered so much because of child molesting Jeff City clerics and their complicity colleagues,” Clohessy said.
Fr. Whiteley was born in 1940. His photo and work history are here: