KANSAS CITY (KS)
DavidClohessy.com [St. Louis MO]
February 1, 2024
By David Clohessy
Dear Archbishop Naumann:
We urge you, in the weeks ahead, to hold at least one joint open and public meeting with us and anyone who cares about the safety of innocent kids and vulnerable adults in your archdiocese.
The goal: to give worried parents and parishioners an opportunity to question and hear from you directly on a matter of grave importance. It would give you a chance to more thoroughly explain why you believe your actions around alleged child molesters are not reckless and callous. And it would give you an opportunity to shed much-needed light on the controversil and opaque process you follow when reports of sexual violence are made against your staff.
Such a meeting would be historic. In the 35 years of SNAP’s existence, we know of no US bishop who has show such openness and courage. It would, we believe, deepen the respect that many of your flock have in you and help create such respect where it is lacking.
A meeting like this could also inspire other similar honest get-togethers elsewhere which, we feel, would lead to greater awareness and understanding of child sex crimes and hopefully even prevent some of them.
We make this request because of the long-standing child sex abuse and cover up crisis that continues to endanger youngsters and roil the church and in light of several recent troubling situations in your archdiocese including
–your recent decision to transfer an accused child molesting priest to a Lenexa parish with a school,
–your letting a Mission Catholic recently hire a school principal who faced a child sexual abuse lawsuit,
–your apparent silence and inaction about an Overland Park priest who was sentenced to prison last month on child pornography charge, and
–your refusal to add more names to your official archdiocesan ‘credibly accused’ abusers list, including such proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting clerics who are or were in your archdiocese, such as Fr. John C. (Fidelis) Forrester, Fr. Placidus Kieffer, Fr. Norman J. Rogge, Fr. Roger Sinclair and Fr. Eugene A. Maio, who we believe is still alive).
(We have several other concerns about your decision-making. These are just the most recent and egregious examples.)
Many Catholic officials, including you, relentlessly try to reassure the flock claiming ‘we’ve reformed,’ ‘this scandal is behind us,’ ‘we promptly oust accused abusers,’ ‘we investigate abuse reports carefully,’ and so on.
Yet there’s a vast gulf between what the church hierarchy SAYS about abuse and cover up and what it DOES about abuse and cover up. Time and time again, the comfort, convenience and careers of the hierarchy takes clear precedence over steps to protect kids, heal victims and tell the truth.
So many US Catholic officials, here and elsewhere, are still widely distrusted or even disbelieved when they make decisions about alleged child molesting clerics behind closed doors citing vague ‘policies’ and communicating those decisions inconsistently and imprecisely.
And faith in you and your colleagues, and the institution as a whole, continues to erode.
It’s safe to say that many people, most notably parishioners and abuse survivors, share the simple but crucial concern we raised with you last year: Why take the risk?
Most parishes in Kansas do not have elementary schools. It would be considerate and cautious to put Fr. John Pilcher – accused recently of child sexual abuse – in one of them. Yet, you assign him to Holy Trinity parish, a parish with an elementary school, despite considerable opposition from families there. Why take that risk?
Most schools – even Catholic schools – do not knowingly hire an accused child molester as principal. Yet last year, you let Bishop Miege High School in Mission hire one as its new head. In 2005, Phil Baniewicz was named in a 2005 civil sexual abuse lawsuit in Arizona. Why take that risk?
Two priests were also named. The lawsuit settled. Both priests were defrocked. Both are now on official church ‘credibly accused’ lists. Is it possible Baniewicz is innocent? Is it possible the victim has Baniewicz confused with another man who hurt him? Sure. Is it prudent to hire Baniewicz for this position? No. Why take that risk?
Many employers, informed that a powerful staff member was arrested, charged and convicted of child pornography, would say something to their staff and the public about it. But when this happened to Fr. James Jackson of Overland Park, you apparently did and said nothing.
No matter who Fr. Jackson’s direct supervisor was or what his technical assignment was, he no doubt had access to kids in your archdiocese. There may well be one – or more – he has harmed. That or those youngsters may well be trapped today in shame, fear, isolation and confusion. Your passivity and secrecy might be exacerbating their deep pain. Why take that risk?
In these cases of Fr. Pilcher, Phil Baniewicz and Fr. Jackson, and others – these are not sound, compassionate and prudent moves on your part. They are callous, reckless and hurtful moves.
But if you’re confident you’re doing right, you should welcome a chance to explain these decisions in a group setting. If you truly believe that many of your flock and in the broader public simply misunderstand your intentions and actions, you’d be wise to openly explain them.
Truth be told, however, we in SNAP have heard many of the excuses you will likely offer for these actions.
For instance, you’ll likely claim that Fr. Jackson wasn’t formally assigned to a church in your archdiocese. This is self-serving hair-splitting. He lived in your archdiocese. He was arrested in your archdiocese. He no doubt was sometimes around, in formal or informal settings, around children in your archdiocese.
So why not err on the side of prudence? Why not honor your repeated promises to be ‘transparent’ and alert your flock to his presence here, begging anyone to come forward if they saw, suspected or suffered any of Fr. Jackson’s crimes?
You will likely claim that ‘investigations’ have ‘cleared’ Fr. Pilcher and that he should be given ‘another chance.’ Maybe so. But it need not be a chance with such direct and constant contact with children.
You may say “I didn’t hire that accused abuser for the school in Marion. The school’s board did.” But we all know that an archbishop is the head of his archdiocese, with the ultimate authority over all things Catholic. Had the board hired an outspoken Planned Parenthood staffer or LBGTQ rights advocate in this post, you certainly would not sit back, shrug your shoulders and pretend to be powerless.
We in SNAP will continue to do what we’ve always done. First and foremost, we will keep begging anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered any misdeeds by any Catholic employee or volunteer in Kansas – whether priest, nun, brother, bishop, seminarian or monk or lay person – to tell a trusted friend or relative, seek therapy, call law enforcement, and help protect other children.
We’ll also continue to offer an empathetic ear to victims who call. We’ll commiserate and sympathize with distraught and disillusioned Catholics who call. We’ll keep working with secular authorities – like police, prosecutors and legislators – who have shown through their actions that they take childrens’ safety seriously.
Regardless of your response to our invitation, we will continue to err on the side of caution, skepticism and safety and to urge your parishioners – especially those in Overland Park, Topeka and to be vigilant and vocal, expressing their heartfelt concerns to you no matter how pessimistic they may feel about making a difference.
We hope – though our hope fades almost daily – to someday work with church figures in this campaign to prevent the horrors inflicted on us by Catholic clerics – and concealed by other Catholic clerics – to be inflicted on our children and grandchildren.
We look forward to your response.
P.S. As you know, several times in recent years, we have publicly urged you – with little success – to expand and improve your list of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics on you archdiocesan website. Most crucially, today we renew our plea to add these names (and others) to your list.
Fr. Roger A. Sinclair was exposed as a “predator priest” last August in an extensive Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy sex crimes and cover ups in that state. Catholic officials were told he molested two boys, but one priest deterred a mother from reporting to police.
Fr. Sinclair was treated at a Church-run center for sexually troubled priests called the House of Affirmation in St. Louis MO. He was also a military chaplain in CA, FL, KS VA and MA.
In 1991, Fr. Sinclair was fired from Topeka State Hospital after he “managed to gain access to a locked unit deceitfully” to try to take male teen patients to the movies. In 2005, he resigned from priesthood.
Fr. Eugene A. Maio is a Jesuit who was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing one person at Marymount High School in Los Angeles. He previously trained in the Kansas City KS archdiocese as student priest, and later taught at St. Louis University in the St. Louis archdiocese for at least two years. In 2003, he was living in the Akron OH area.
Fr. Placidus Kieffer is a Benedictine who was accused of sexually abusing two boys in the Davenport IA diocese. Those allegations were deemed “credible” by church officials and his name is on Davenport’s list of “credibly accused” abusers.
Fr. John C. (Fidelis) Forrester, a Benedictine, is listed on diocesan lists of the “credibly accused” in Seattle WA (2016) and Davenport IA (2008). Allegations were made against him by at least three boys. He worked at Ss. Peter and Paul church in Seneca KS and St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison KS.
Fr. Norman J. Rogge, a Jesuit priest, was ‘outed’ as credibly accused last month on the Mobile AL diocesan website. He had pleaded guilty to a sexual offense against a child in Florida in 1967, and was charged with sexual battery or lewd and lascivious act on a child in 1984 and again convicted. He worked at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s Kansas and also CT, TX, CA and LA.
In 2006, you admitted in a church newsletter that two of your priests were accused of sexual misconduct with adults.
Fr. Anthony Kiplagat, who has reportedly fled back home to Kenya from his parishes in Osage City and Scranton.
Fr. George Seuferling, who faces multiple allegations, was suspended more than seven years ago, and now is reportedly being defrocked, a process that involves the Vatican and often takes years.
In the interest of public safety, we ask – again – that they too be added to your ‘credibly accused’ abusers list.