Newspaper: Bishop Steib Allowed Accused Priest to Minister in Mexico

Catholic Culture
April 8, 2010

Following the unsealing of court documents from a clerical abuse lawsuit, The Memphis Commercial Appeal has published a series of nearly a dozen articles on the history of clerical abuse-- most of it homosexual in nature-- in the western Tennessee diocese.

According to the newspaper, Bishop J. Terry Steib allowed one credibly accused priest to minister on a trip to Mexico.

Father William Kantner: In recently unsealed court records, a 2002 letter was sent to Kantner from an emotionally distraught man -- identified in the records as "Anon 31" -- who said Kantner had sexually abused him as a teen for several years in the late 1970s. Msgr. Peter Buchignani investigated and determined the allegations to be credible.

Two years later, in 2004, Steib sent Mexican church officials a letter of good standing on behalf of Kantner, who was embarking on a church-related trip to Mexico. The bishop said later that writing the letter was a mistake and that he had put children at risk.

In a 2006 complaint, a former seminarian identified as "Anon 57" told Kanter in a letter that he endured "deep emotional pain" and fear because of Kantner's aggressive behavior and sexual advances years earlier. The letter writer said he was finally sharing the information with church leaders and asked for Kanter to express his remorse.

A Diocesan Review Board found the complaint inconclusive, but the complaint from "Anon 31" was likely valid. The board recommended Kantner undergo counseling for anger, alcohol and other issues. He was not removed from parish duties and still heads St. James Church.

According to another article in the series:

Accusations of sexual abuse of a teenage boy by Father William Kantner that an investigation by Vicar General Msgr. Peter Buchignani determined to be credible in 2004. While the investigation was in progress, Bishop J. Terry Steib wrote a letter of good standing for Kantner, clearing the way for him to visit and perform services at a church in Mexico. The bishop made no mention of Kantner's sexual misconduct investigation and acknowledged that by not sharing that information he had put children at risk. "Looking back at it, that was not right," Steib said in a deposition. Kantner could not be reached, but court records indicate he has denied any sexual misconduct.

While the Commerical Appeal reported that the vicar general determined the allegation against Father Kantner to be "credible" and that the diocesan review board found the allegation "likely valid," a 2005 West Tennessee Catholic article reported that Bishop Steib judged him to be falsely accused.

Father Kantner had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor by a person who is now an adult. After accepting the Diocesan Review Board's confidential recommendation, Bishop Steib returned Father Kantner to ministry last week because the allegations were not credible. Inconsistencies in the victim's testimony led to the conclusion that Father Kantner was falsely accused.

Father Kantner is now pastor of a parish in Memphis.


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