Diocese Settles All Clergy Abuse Cases

By Jack Smith
The Catholic Key

August 28, 2008

KANSAS CITY - Bishop Robert Finn, with the consent of the Board of Consultors and the Diocesan Finance Council, agreed to a settlement of all pending clergy abuse cases against the diocese on August 21.

The cases filed over the last two years include 47 complaints against 10 priests and two members of religious orders. They relate to incidents of abuse taking place between the early 1950s and early 1990s.

At an August 20 press conference, Bishop Finn spoke of his compassion for the "victims of this behavior" and said, "We apologize for the fully unacceptable behavior that prompted these lawsuits to be brought against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph."

Kansas City -St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn discusses the settlement at a news conference Aug. 20 at the Chancery.
Photo by Joe Cory

Bishop Finn said, "A priest is ordained with the privilege of celebrating the Church's sacraments by nothing less than a holy order. The behaviors attributable to certain priests involved in this matter not only betray those holy orders, but diminish the stature of the faithful and responsible priests who dispatch their ministry effectively and faithfully day in, day out."

The settlement requires the diocese to make a payment to the victims of $10 million. An arbitrator acceptable to both plaintiffs' lawyers and the diocese will apportion the award among the victims following individual interviews held this week and last. The diocese has no control over the division of the payment.

Bishop Finn, Vicar General Monsignor Robert Murphy and Chancellor Monsignor Brad Offutt have been available the past several days to hear individually from victims and their families. Bishop Finn told The Key after hearing from the victims, "There is no doubt in our mind that some of these men did terrible damage."

Funds for the settlement will come from a combination of the diocese' external insurers, insurance reserve and possible sale of undeveloped land no longer suitable for church use. (see Bishop's Q & A on page 5 for further detail).

The settlement is incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding signed by attorneys for plaintiffs and the diocese listing several non-monetary items agreed to by the parties. These non-monetary stipulations "should assure our community, our congregations and these families that the diocese will continue in its exercise of vigilance and in its devotion to training and education so that we may be confident there will never, ever be a repeat of the behaviors, the offenses, or the claims that have been associated with this matter," Bishop Finn said.

Beyond reinforcing practices already engaged by the diocese for education, mandated reporting of abuse and the fostering of safe environments, the stipulations ask for the removal from the priesthood of certain retired priests.

Bishop Finn has already initiated this procedure at the Diocesan Tribunal. At the press conference, he said, "although the statute of limitations prevents man's law from moving forward with any criminal proceedings here, I-as bishop of this diocese-will present to the Diocesan Tribunal and ultimately to the Vatican the recommendation that these priests see their holy orders removed from them."

On August 26, Bishop Finn sent a letter to all pastors in the diocese requesting they set aside one Mass on the weekend of the Solemnity of the Triumph of the Cross (Sept. 13-14) for the intention of "healing and reconciliation in our diocese."

"By this observance of a Mass for the intention of Healing and Reconciliation observed throughout the Diocese, I pray that some consolation will be brought to all who share the sufferings surrounding these sad events, and that we will invoke a supernatural grace for the necessary work of reparation and renewal," Bishop Finn wrote.


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