Survivors network wants answers on appointment of priest in Lenexa previously accused of abuse

KMBC - ABC 9 [Kansas City MO]

February 1, 2024

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, to hold an open meeting for both parishioners and the public on the recent installation of Father John Pilcher

On Thursday, SNAP – the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests – called on the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to hold an open meeting for both parishioners and the public. The installation of Father John Pilcher at Holy Trinity is the latest reason.

The Archdiocese placed Father Pilcher – accused of sexual assault of a minor in Topeka in 2021 but never charged – at the Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa last month.Advertisement

It is one of the larger parishes and one of the largest parochial schools in the Archdiocese.

That move caused SNAP to speak out.

“We can see absolutely no harm, and we can see nothing but benefit from having an open public meeting where everyone gets to ask their questions,” said SNAP representative Tom Clohessy on Thursday morning.

Dee Ann Miller and Tom White joined him on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, the only cathedral within the span of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Together, the three called for the Archbishop of the Archdiocese to be more transparent.

Clohessy believes it can be done with open meetings – open to both parishioners and the public.

“At a bare minimum,” said Clohessy, “he needs to come out and explain his decisions. Instead of a terse, vague press release that says this allegation was unsubstantiated, come out and explain, ‘Here’s how we handle these reports, here’s how we investigate. Here’s why we decided to put them back in a parish.’”

In a statement to KMBC Thursday afternoon, the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese noted what it had done in regard to Father Pilcher.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas takes all allegations of misconduct by church personnel very seriously and works to respond to survivors’ needs with urgency, respect, and compassion. The allegation made against Father John Pilcher in 2021 while he served at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Topeka, was investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Subsequently, the Archdiocese conducted its own investigation into the allegation, and the findings were then reviewed by the Archdiocesan Independent Review Board. The Archdiocesan Independent Review Board is made up of seasoned qualified professionals including mental health, education, law enforcement, business, and theology; one of whom is a survivor of clergy abuse, who was appointed for their expertise, education, and passion for this topic. The recommendation was that he return to full ministry.

Throughout the investigation and up to the present day, the Archdiocese has been transparent about the allegation and the process and protocol that followed and has continued to issue public updates.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has been and will continue to respond to all concerns and questions by parents and parishioners at Holy Trinity. Anyone who would like to discuss their concerns should email

We encourage anyone with knowledge about any misconduct by any church volunteer, employee, religious or clergy member to contact civil authorities first, and then make a report to our confidential report line at 913-647-3051 or online at

SNAP told KMBC on Thursday that at least half a dozen Holy Trinity families reached out to the network.

“They’re afraid that if they speak out, they’ll be retaliated against,” said Clohessy, “and over and over again this question: why this parish with a school? There are office jobs at the church headquarters. There are parishes – many parishes, most parishes – that don’t have a parochial school.”

He continued, “many parents, frankly, struggle and scrape to be able to afford a private school or parochial school, and they are afraid that if they speak out their kids will get kicked out of the school.”

The Archdiocese held three meetings with the families of Holy Trinity on January 21, after its 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30 am masses.

During each Mass, he invited all to join him immediately after with questions and concerns to an open discussion in the church’s meeting room. What we found through those discussions is that it’s best to address these concerns on a one-on-one basis. As such, we have made it a priority to engage with all who contact us in open dialogue, to the extent that privacy rights allow, and address each question and concern, and we will continue to do so. Additionally, we will continue to work with Holy Trinity to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for all.

We agree with SNAP that this is important. That is why the Archdiocese immediately reports allegations of misconduct to the local authorities and has an Independent Review Board. That is also why we have been transparent in our investigations and updates to the public.

SNAP on Bishop Miege’s President

In August of 2023, Phil Banieciwz was named President of Bishop Miege High School. In 1985, SNAP says Banieciwz, along with two priests, was accused of molesting a child in Arizona.

According to SNAP, the two priests in that case were defrocked.

Bishop Miege announced its reasoning in this letter.

On Thursday, the Archdiocese addressed it again in response to KMBC’s inquiry.

Bishop Miege employed an in-depth vetting process when hiring Mr. Phil Baniewicz; it included several interviews, a criminal background check, and substantive interviews of work and personal references. Members of the Board of Trustees at Miege conducted the interviews and reviewed his employment history, including his years of service at Maur Hill-Mount Academy.

“We’re not saying that the President of Bishop Miege should never have another job. We are not saying that Father Pilcher should never ever have another parish,” explained SNAP’s Clohessy. “We’re saying often times, where smoke there’s fire. And Catholic parishioners need and deserve Church officials to put the welfare of their families first.”

A Priest in Kansas Unaffiliated with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

The third incident SNAP says needs more attention is the father found in possession of child pornography.

Father James W. Jackson pled guilty to possessing child pornography in Rhode Island in 2023, admitting he downloaded and stored thousands of files of child pornography.

According to the Archdiocese, he lived in Overland Park with family while awaiting sentencing.

The Department of Justice says during the summer of 2022, Kansas members of the Internet Crimes Against Children discovered he was downloading child pornography while he lived with his family in Kansas.

He was sentenced to federal prison in December of 2023.

The Archdiocese said:

Father James W. Jackson, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, has never served in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. He resided in Overland Park, Kansas while he was awaiting trial but it should be noted that he was under court supervision and had no grant of faculties to serve in the Archdiocese at any point while he was here. In transparency, the Archdiocese made an announcement about this in The Leaven, our diocesan newspaper. This goes out to every household in our Archdiocese; there are about 200,000 parishioners in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.