New Lawsuits Filed against Clergy

By Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
June 19, 2008

New allegations of clergy sexual abuse emerged in lawsuits filed Thursday against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

One lawsuit alleged that Stephen Wise, a Lee's Summit man who left the clergy in 1986, molested a boy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the late 1970s.

A second lawsuit accused Monsignor Thomas O'Brien and Father Thomas Reardon of propositioning and sexually abusing a boy for several years beginning in the late 1970s. Both O'Brien and Reardon have been the targets of numerous similar lawsuits in recent years.

O'Brien and Earl Johnson, whom a lawyer alleged was a former member of the Capuchin order, were named in a round of lawsuits filed last week.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said the church could not respond to the new allegations until lawyers had reviewed them.

Wise declined to discuss the case.

"I'm not talking on the phone about anything like this," Wise said.

Lawyers representing O'Brien and Reardon could not be reached for comment.

In the complaint against Wise, the unidentified plaintiff, now 37, contends that the abuse lasted for about four years and that "Wise would tell the plaintiff that he loved him."

The plaintiff, who attended Sacred Heart Parish, noted that his parents were divorced and that Wise befriended his mother and "assumed the role of father figure."

In a written statement, the plaintiff said he has struggled with the memories for years.

"I hope now that the healing can begin and that those who are survivors will take a stand for those who have been abused and be a voice against the ones who allow this blatant act to have taken place," he wrote.

In the lawsuit against O'Brien and Reardon, the unidentified plaintiff, who now is 47 and lives in California, alleged that the abuse started when he was about 7 years old in the St. Elizabeth's Parish rectory while his mother received marriage counseling in another room.

The lawsuit also contends that O'Brien gave the boy and other children liquor, pornography and money to buy drugs.

According to the diocese, Reardon was ordained in 1967 and served for 22 years at five parishes. He resigned as pastor of St. John Francis Regis Parish in April 1989 and has not functioned since then as a priest for the diocese.

O'Brien was ordained in 1950 and retired from parish ministry in 1984. He then served as a part-time hospital chaplain until retiring in 2002.

Wise was ordained in 1979. His pastoral assignments included the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Lee's Summit, and St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers asked that anyone with knowledge of sexual misconduct with a minor to report it to civil authorities and to the church's victim's advocate, Leslie Guillott, at 816-361-2666.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send e-mail to


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