KCK Catholic diocese says finding that priest did not sexually abuse minor was wrong

Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

June 18, 2021

By Judy L. Thomas

A finding in 2002 that one of its priests did not sexually abuse a minor was inaccurate, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced on Friday.

“With deep sorrow for the suffering of victims and survivors of abuse, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announces that William Haegelin, a priest who was removed from ministry in 2002 and laicized in 2004, has been the subject of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor,” the archdiocese said in a statement published in Friday’s issue of The Leaven, its official newspaper.

Haegelin’s name had been placed on the archdiocese’s list of substantiated clergy offenders under the category “Previously Publicized Allegations Not Able to Be Substantiated,” the archdiocese said, but is now listed under the category “Substantiated Allegations of Clergy Sexual Abuse of a Minor.”

The list is available at www.archkck.org.

“William Haegelin was the subject of an investigation in 2002 that led to an inaccurate determination and announcement that he did not sexually abuse a minor,” the archdiocese said in its statement. “The Archdiocese is particularly grateful for this survivor’s courage and strength in coming forward to challenge the decision to categorize Mr. Haegelin’s allegation as not able to be substantiated.

“Due to this persistence, we are now able to acknowledge more fully the harm to the survivor and to better assist and support their healing. Archbishop Naumann offers his sincere apology to the survivor, their family and community.”

Haegelin served in the following parishes and schools during his time in the Archdiocese: St. Agnes, Roeland Park; Blessed Sacrament, Kansas City; Bishop Ward High School, Kansas City; Christ the King, Kansas City; St. Lawrence, Easton; St. Joseph of the Valley, Leavenworth; Immaculata High School, Leavenworth; Sacred Heart — St. Casimir, Leavenworth; and St. Ann, Prairie Village.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann urges anyone harmed by Haegelin to contact both law enforcement and the Archdiocese, the statement said.

In 2002, the archdiocese said that Haegelin did not sexually abuse a minor but did have sexual relations with his accuser when his accuser was an adult. At the time, the archdiocese said Haegelin had been on paid leave and would not return to St. Ann Catholic Church.

Monsignor Charles McGlinn, who was vicar general at the time, said then-Archbishop James P. Keleher hoped that Haegelin would return to priestly service in the archdiocese after a sabbatical that included spiritual counseling and renewal.

Haegelin released a statement through his attorney in November 2002 saying he thought the archdiocese’s review board had conducted a “full and fair investigation.”

“I look forward to the coming time granted to me for spiritual renewal … and ask for your continued prayers,” the statement said.

The archdiocese had placed Haegelin on leave after receiving a two-page letter from a man who accused Haegelin of sexually abusing him in the 1980s, when the man was a minor. The archdiocese’s Independent Review Board found no evidence of sexual abuse with a minor, McGlinn said, but recommended that Haegelin leave St. Ann permanently “because of the tense atmosphere and publicity of the last several months.”

The accuser was found to be 18 years old or older — and therefore not a minor — when he and Haegelin had a sexual relationship, McGlinn said.

Haegelin violated his promise of priestly celibacy by engaging in the relationship, McGlinn said, but not any criminal or civil law, as far as the archdiocese knew.

The archdiocese did not explain in its new statement why it had changed the finding to “substantiated.”

JUDY L THOMAS 816-234-4334 Judy L. Thomas joined The Star in 1995 and is a member of the investigative team, focusing on watchdog journalism. Over three decades, the Kansas native has covered domestic terrorism, extremist groups and clergy sex abuse. Her stories on Kansas secrecy and religion have been nationally recognized.