Archdiocese Reaches Settlement with Florissant Parents Who Say Son Killed Himself over Abuse by Priest
By Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 11, 2016
ST. LOUIS • Pat and Dan Harkins, who say their 21-year-old son killed himself in 2009 because of sexual abuse by a St. Louis priest years before, told reporters Thursday they hope his story inspires others to find help before it’s too late.
As for the Catholic church, the Harkins believe there’s little left to say.
“I still believe in God,” Pat Harkins said. “I don’t believe in the Catholic church. How could I?”
Outside Rosati-Kain High School in St. Louis, the Florissant couple were joined by officials from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to speak out about the settlement of their lawsuit against the St. Louis Archdiocese.
The amount of the settlement, reached in September, is confidential.
The Harkins complained that they were ignored when they approached the St. Louis Archdiocesan Review Board, which responds to accusations of clergy sexual abuse, before suing the church in 2013 and seeking policy changes.
“If you are someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a priest, come forward and get some help,” Pat Harkins said. “There are steps you can take so you can begin to heal.”
Gabe Jones, a spokesman for the archdiocese, emailed a statement, saying: “The Archdiocese of St. Louis has, from the outset, encouraged the Harkins family to contact the police about their claim. Due in part to some inconsistent and incomplete information, Bryan Kuchar has never been charged for the acts alleged. However, he was removed from the clerical state in September 2006 following a 2003 conviction in a separate case.”
He continued: “In order to avoid the uncertainties of trial and to put this matter to rest for all, a compromise settlement was reached with the family. We hope it gives them some peace and will continue to hold them in prayer.”
Alex Harkins, accompanied by a close friend, Jacob Runge, fatally shot himself May 29, 2009, with a 9 mm pistol in the St. Stanislaus Conservation Area in Hazelwood as part of a suicide pact. After Harkins killed himself, Runge, then 22, panicked and left.
In 2010, a jury acquitted Runge, of St. Peters, of involuntary manslaughter in what Runge’s attorney said was the first time someone had been prosecuted for assisting a suicide in Missouri in more than a century.
Three years later, Harkins’ parents sued the Archdiocese in St. Louis County Circuit Court, claiming their son killed himself because of sexual abuse years earlier by then-Roman Catholic priest Kuchar.
Kuchar, who was suspended by the archdiocese in 2002 and defrocked by the Vatican in 2006, allegedly molested their son at Kenrick Glennon Seminary’s overnight camp in Shrewsbury between 1999 and 2002. Kuchar was never charged.
In 2003, Kuchar was convicted of molesting a 14-year-old boy eight years earlier, when the priest was serving at Assumption Catholic Church in south St. Louis County. He was sentenced to three consecutive one-year terms in the St. Louis County Jail.
At least two other lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse in which suicide was a factor have been settled by the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Pat and Dan Harkins have said that their son was studying to become a priest and that his decline started immediately after being molested at the camp at age 13. Alex Harkins battled depression daily, attempted suicide several times and spoke to therapists about being sexually abused. They said he didn’t reveal the abuse to them until about a year before taking his life.
He graduated from Hazelwood West High School in 2006 and worked at a foundry making airplane parts, his parents have said. He loved independent movies, Frisbee golf, collecting coins and gems, skateboarding and animals.
Dan Harkins said he believed Missouri’s lawmakers needed to strengthen laws to protect sex abuse victims.
“Whenever my wife and I attend a family funeral or a wedding, I can’t help but think that my son should be up there as the priest,” Dan Harkins said Thursday. “That’s never going to happen.”
After Runge’s acquittal, he said his friend’s suicide would haunt him for the rest of his life. Harkins said Thursday, “I hope Jacob finds his peace.”