KANSAS CITY (KS)
Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]
March 23, 2022
By Judy L. Thomas
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City who stepped down 14 months ago during an investigation into a sexual abuse allegation is resuming his duties, a church official announced Wednesday.
Bishop John Brungardt will return to his role as bishop after investigations by Kansas’ top law enforcement agency and church authorities, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas said in a statement.
“Bishop Brungardt voluntarily withdrew from public ministry to facilitate the investigation of the allegation,” Naumann said. “During that period, the allegation was fully investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), following which civil authorities declined prosecution.”
Brungardt had stepped down as bishop in February 2021 after the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was lodged against him.
Naumann said church authorities conducted their own investigation of the allegation after the KBI’s was completed.
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican has now determined that the allegation against Bishop Brungardt is not supported by the evidence and the case against him has been dismissed,” Naumann said.
“Bishop Brungardt has vigorously denied the allegation throughout, and he fully cooperated with both the civil and Church investigations. Throughout this entire 14 month period, Bishop Brungardt has been entitled to the presumption of innocence under both civil and Church law.”
A KBI spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as the KBI enters its fourth year of an investigation into reports of sexual abuse in the four Catholic dioceses in Kansas and the Society of St. Pius X, a breakaway Catholic group known for its traditional Latin Mass, with a large branch in St. Marys in northeast Kansas.
A KBI official told a legislative committee in October that since the investigation began in November 2018, the agency had received 215 tips and opened 122 cases.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced in February 2021 that the KBI was investigating an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Brungardt. It said Brungardt denied the allegation and was “cooperating fully with the KBI.”
Brungardt, a former high school science teacher, asked to step aside from his duties until the matter was resolved, the archdiocese said. The Congregation for Bishops appointed the bishop of Salina, Gerald L. Vincke, as temporary apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Dodge City during the investigation.
Naumann was asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, at the Vatican to conduct a canonical preliminary investigation into the matter, the archdiocese said last year. The CDF handles issues involving child sexual abuse.
“Archbishop Naumann will send the results of this preliminary investigation to the Congregation, along with his opinion about the initial findings, in the shortest time possible, taking into account that the State investigation is still ongoing,” the archdiocese said at the time.
Brungardt, 63, was born in Salina and ordained to the priesthood in 1998. He served in the Diocese of Wichita for 12 years before going to the Diocese of Dodge City.
Naumann said in his statement Wednesday that Brungardt has “expressed his appreciation for the thoroughness of both investigations and his eagerness to resume public ministry, ‘serving Almighty God and the good people of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.’
“At the same time, Bishop Brungardt urges everyone ‘to pray for and listen to all victims of sexual abuse,’” the statement said.
This story was originally published March 23, 2022 12:51 PM.