SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [St. Louis MO]
March 29, 2021
Victims try new tactic: writing to church employees
Group finds two more local predators; total is now nine
Diocese is ‘silent’ about 1 who was ousted 2 years ago
SNAP nicknames Jeff City Bishop ‘Minimum’ McKnight
Stats: Mid-MO diocese has most abusers per parishioner
Holding signs, childhood photos and a large map of Boone County at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will disclose that
- ten credibly accused predator priests are/were in Boone Co.,
- mid-MO has the highest rate of predator priests in the state, and
- bypassing mid-MO’s bishop, the group is writing to dozens of Boone County church staff about predator priests.
The victims will also demand that Jeff City’s Catholic bishop
- tell the public more about a priest accused two years ago,
- add more priests to his ‘credibly accused’ website list, and
- post more details about all child molesting clerics, like other bishops do (like photos and work histories).
Monday, March 29 at 2:00 p.m.
Outside the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center, 602 Turner Ave. in Columbia
Three-four members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
(NOTE: All of the priests mentioned below have been publicly ‘outed’ as alleged abusers in court records, church records and/or mainstream media accounts, sometimes outside of Missouri. Most have been deemed ‘credibly accused’ by church officials on diocesan websites. Many of their work assignments, however, are just now being discovered and disclosed.)
—1) SNAP has recently learned that two more credibly accused predator priests were in Boone County: Fr. Frank C. Westhoff and Fr. Charles H. Patterson. Both headed Holy Spirit Church in Centralia.
This brings the Boone County total to nine publicly accused abusive clerics, the highest number in Missouri outside of St. Louis and Kansas City.
—-2) And church records show central Missouri has a disproportionate number of proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive clerics. Of the state’s four Catholic dioceses, the Jeff City diocese has the highest percentage of predator priests per parishioner. (Stats to be given out at the news conference.)
—-3) For the last three years, SNAP has repeatedly pushed McKnight to be more forthcoming about predator priests. He has acted “belatedly, grudgingly and inadequately,” the group says.
So SNAP has obtained a list of dozens of Boone County church employees, and is emailing them, urging them to spread the word about these troubled clerics. (Copies of SNAP’s email will be available at the news conference.) This kind of direct outreach is a ‘first’ for SNAP.
SNAP also wants McKnight to personally visit each place they worked and publicly beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse by the two clerics to come forward and get help.
For the safety of kids and the healing of victims, McKnight should also add more information about the men to his website, like their photos, where they worked and their last known whereabouts, SNAP says.
—-4) MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE NINE PRIESTS
The other alleged molester priests who are/were in Boone County are Fr. Geoffrey Brooke, Fr. John Whiteley, Fr. John F. Fischer, Fr. John Long, Fr. Fred Lenczycki, Fr. Mel Lahr and Fr. Jerry Howard. (All of them worked in parishes except Howard who lived in Columbia and Midway and worked as a drug counselor at now-shuttered Columbia hospital.)
(Information about each is at BishopAccountability.org)
Some (like Howard and Whiteley) have attracted considerable media attention. Others (like Lenczycki and Brooke) have not.
All but Brooke are on the official church ‘credibly accused’ list which is posted on the diocesan webpage: https://bit.ly/3fepHew
At least four of them are still alive (Whiteley, Brooke, Howard and Lenczycki.) The status of Long and Lahr is not clear.
The most recent case involves Brooke. Two years ago this month, he was put on leave for alleged ‘boundary violations.’ But Jeff City Bishop Shawn McKnight told only some of his parishioners, not the public. It became widely known later because of a newspaper report. Only recently did McKnight reveal that Brooke is being defrocked, a Vatican process that can take years and is usually reserved for egregious wrongdoing.
After being ordained in 2015, Brooke also worked in Sedalia, Jeff City and Washington DC. For the safety of kids, SNAP says McKnight should reveal where Brooke is now and more details about his case.
Lahr worked at Sacred Heart in Columbia in 1973. Wallace was pastor there from 1974-1975, studied at MU, and was a hospital chaplain in Columbia in 1998.
Long was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia before he retired in 2000. Fischer was pastor there from 1970-1971 and retired in 1993. Lenczycki was there in 1985.
(In 2019, Lenczycki pled guilty in St. Louis to two counts of sodomy. In 2008, he became the first US priest to ever be declared a “sexually violent predator” and kept behind bars after his criminal sentence ended. He admits to having abused 30 kids in 3 states.
McKnight became bishop in 2018, published the ‘accused’ list that same year and has updated it several times. But, SNAP says, it’s more vague and less helpful than many similar bishops’ lists. And McKnight is omitting several clerics who should be on it, SNAP says, including Fr. Ken Roberts, Fr. Richard Colbert, Fr. James Gummersbach, Brooke and Lenczycki.
David Clohessy 314 566 9790, email@example.com, Judy Jones 314 974 5003