Ex-vianney Staffer Campaigns against Former School President

By Shawn Clubb
Suburban Journals

November 18, 2008

Woman joins with SNAP to challenge church

A former employee of St. John Vianney High School and a group for survivors of priest abuse are calling for church officials to be more diligent in their work to protect young people from pedophiles in the clergy.

Linda Briggs-Harty, who formerly worked in public relations at Vianney, and David Clohessy of Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Marianist Province of the United States are not following church protocol in handling the allegations that have been leveled.

They cite the case of the Rev. Robert Osborne, former president of Vianney and currently a visiting priest at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood, as an example. They said Osborne was allowed to visit Vianney unsupervised while he was facing the allegations.

The Archdiocese and the Marianists both note that no criminal charges were filed against Osborne and a civil lawsuit was settled out of court. Osborne is a member of the Marianist Order.

Provincial Stephen Glodek, the head of the Marianist Order, said Osborne stepped down as president of Vianney in February 2006 "because of the high profile nature of the situation and the possible negative impact on the school."

Between then and June 2007 when a civil case was settled and the criminal investigation had ended without charges being filed by prosecutors, Osborne was at the school only during non-school hours and with the knowledge of school officials.

"He was there to clear out his belongings," Glodek said.

Briggs-Harty, who worked at Vianney from August 2007 to May 2008, said she witnessed Osborne visit the school without supervision. She described a representative of the Marianists as having "freaked out" when Osborne showed up publicly at the school after the shooting in February 2008 at Kirkwood City Hall.

Glodek said Osborne has been a Marianist priest in good standing since June 2007 when the investigation ended.

"We are not aware of any civil, criminal nor church restrictions placed upon Father Osborne," Glodek said.

Clohessy said Briggs-Harty's experience in witnessing those visits shows church officials saying one thing and doing another. He said the church's policy, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, states that no priest with a credible abuse allegation should remain in the ministry.

He said the situation with Osborne falls into the criteria.

Clohessy said the alleged victim's family reported abuse to church and school officials, filed a police report and the report was credible enough to be forwarded to a prosecutor.

He said an experienced civil lawyer found the victim credible enough to take the case, which was settled out of court for what he calls "a substantial amount." He notes there also was another victim named in the police report.

Clohessy said a third victim has come forward to SNAP, but has yet to take legal action.

"If you look at the totality of the evidence, we believe this is absolutely by no stretch of the imagination a credible allegation," Clohessy said.

The Marianists and the Archdiocese have taken little action to remove Osborne from the ministry, Clohessy said. There are two issues at stake, he said - the 'behavior of a dangerous priest" and "the misdeeds of his supervisors."

"This never has been strictly about the behavior of the pedophile priests," he said. "It's called a crisis in the church because of the callousness and deceit of the hierarchy."

Briggs-Harty said she has no personal vendetta against Vianney. She said she tried to first deal with the issue confidentially.

She cites the Bishop's Conference Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which calls for creation of a board of mostly lay people to review priest abuse cases. She said there is no indication this was done in Osborne's case.

"They're really not following the church protocol," Briggs-Harty said. "There are things that are just not being done."

Sue Leshe, a parishioner of St. Peter and the mother of two children at St. Peter School, said she does not believe there is any merit to the allegations against Osborne. Her family has known the priest for years.

"I have no concerns whatsoever of him being at St. Peters," Leshe said.

Clohessy said Osborne is the sixth Marianist accused in recent years of being a pedophile. He named the other five. Glodek said these men have been wrongly accused.

"The continued naming by SNAP of certain Marianists, who have been falsely accused, comes dangerously close to prosecutable slander," he said. "All of these cases have been investigated by proper civil and church authorities."


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