Kansas City diocese hasn’t named all priests credibly accused of sex abuse, group says

Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

June 23, 2021

By Judy L. Thomas

[Photo above: David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, on Wednesday wrote the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse outside the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, 20 W. 9th St. in Kansas City. SNAP said priests who once worked in the Kansas City diocese and were credibly accused of abuse elsewhere were left off the diocese’s list of abusers. TAMMY LJUNGBLAD TLJUNGBLAD@KCSTAR.COM]

The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese has failed to include nearly 20 priests on its list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse even though they are named elsewhere, a victim’s advocate group said Wednesday.

Those priests — including one convicted in Texas of trying to hire a hit man to kill his victim— all had ties to the diocese at one time, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The group plans to publicly release the names at an afternoon news conference.

“For nearly two years, SNAP has repeatedly pushed Bishop Johnston to add roughly 20 names to his ‘credibly accused’ list, largely to no avail,” said former SNAP executive director David Clohessy. “Bishops elsewhere have, however, honored some such requests by SNAP.”

In 2019, Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. released a list of 24 priests he said had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, saying that “the dreadful scourge of sexual abuse of minors has wounded our entire family of faith.”

But SNAP said 19 priests with connections to the diocese were left off the list. The group believes it’s important that those names be listed so other potential victims can come forward.

One, SNAP said, was the Rev. John M. Fiala, who pleaded guilty in Texas in 2014 to charges of raping a boy at gunpoint. In 2012, Fiala was convicted of plotting to have the teen killed. Fiala died in prison in 2017.

The youth had accused Fiala of sexually assaulting him in 2007 and 2008. The abuse allegedly occurred when Fiala was a pastoral administrator at Sacred Heart of Mary parish in the West Texas community of Rocksprings.

Fiala served in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in 2001 and 2002 and was spiritual director from 1998 to 2001 at a religious order that had a house in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Officials with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph told The Star in 2010 that they had received no complaints about Fiala when he was in the Kansas City area.

Fiala was an associate pastor at St. Joseph’s parish in Shawnee from Aug. 31, 2001, to January 2002. After that he helped at a parish in Holton, Kansas, from January to April 2002, the archdiocese said. The archdiocese included Fiala on a list of credibly accused priests it released in 2019.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese told The Star in 2010 that Fiala did not work for the diocese. She said that from August 1998 until mid-2001 he served as spiritual director to the SOLT (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) community, which maintained a religious house in the diocese.

SNAP also said Wednesday that the Rev. Julian Hartig, who worked at St. Mary’s parish in Higginsville from 1926 to 1929, had been found to be credibly accused by other church institutions.

The Gallup Diocese in New Mexico publicly named Hartig as an abuser in 2005. The Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe also confirmed that there was at least one credible allegation against him. Hartig died in 1987.

“Both worked in KCMO,” Clohessy said of Hartig and Fiala. “But Bishop James Johnston refuses to put them on his diocesan ‘credibly accused’ list even though both have been deemed ‘credibly accused’ molesters by bishops in New Mexico and Kansas and can be found listed that way on church websites elsewhere.”

Diocesan spokeswoman Ashlie Hand said in an email Wednesday that all but one of the names SNAP was releasing were included on lists made public by other dioceses or religious orders that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese linked to at the bottom of its own list. To see those names, a person would need to click on the links from the other institutions.

“We do not list duplicate names that are included on lists elsewhere, rather at the bottom of our list, we link to additional lists in the dioceses of Springfield and Jefferson City, as well as lists maintained by Conception Abbey and the Jesuits of U.S. Central and Southern Province,” the diocese said.

SNAP also on Wednesday announced that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese had recently paid a settlement in a case involving former priest Thomas Reardon, who has been the subject of more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits.

David Ford alleged that Reardon sexually abused him in the late 1970s when the priest worked at St. Gabriel parish and that the diocese covered it up.

Ford told The Star in an interview years ago — and also said in a 1997 deposition in another case — that on more than a dozen occasions in 1978 and 1979 when he was 14 and 15 and working at St. Gabriel he was asked to be a bartender for priests’ parties. At those parties, he said, several clergy saw him give drinks to priests and to boys the priests had brought with them.

At those parties, Ford said, priests took boys alone to rooms. He said Reardon did the same with him. Ford said in his deposition that he disclosed his abuse to Catholic officials at least four times — in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1996.

Reardon, who SNAP described as Missouri’s “most-sued and most dangerous predator priest,” was defrocked years ago. His assignments in the diocese were at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, St. John Francis Regis Catholic Church, St. Gabriel Archangel, Catholic Youth Organization, Church of Santa Fe in Buckner and Camp Little Flower in Raytown.

SNAP said it also had found numerous other “under the radar” clerics who had at one time been stationed in Kansas City and are listed as ‘credibly accused’ abusers on at least one church website — mostly in other states or dioceses — but are not on the Kansas City-St. Joseph list.

Those priests, the group said, are Vincent Barsch, Bede Parry, Edgar Probstfield, Regis Probstfield, Gilbert Stack, Hugh Tasch, Paschal Thomas and Isaac True, all from the Benedictine order; and Paul Pilgram, Burton J. Fraser, Chester Gaiter, Dennis Kirchoff, Philip Kraus and Francis Kegel of the Jesuit order.

The others are Donald Redmond, Lawrence Gregovich and Martin Juarez. Redmond and Juarez are on the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas’ list of credibly accused priests.