Former Lee’s Summit Priest Moved from Current Post

By Judy L. Thomas
Lee's Summit Journal
June 7, 2011

Bishop Robert Finn has removed a priest from his duties as pastor of Christ the King parish in Kansas City and from all other public ministry, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph June 2.

In a statement released last week, the Roman Catholic diocese said its review board, which is charged with assessing sexual abuse allegations against priests, had received “credible reports alleging sexual misconduct with minors by Father Michael Tierney in the early 1970s and 1980s.”

Before moving to Christ the King, Tierney was the priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church at 1800 S.W. M-150 in Lee’s Summit.

One person making a complaint recently met with the review board, the diocese said.

“After hearing this report and meeting with Father Tierney, board members also considered information concerning two other individuals,” the diocese said in its statement. “Each declined to meet with the review board but made similar claims of misconduct by Father Tierney. One of these individuals originally reported wrestling with Father Tierney, but in a 2010 lawsuit claimed that he had been groped.”

As a result, the review board recommended that Finn take action against Tierney, the statement said.

“Father Tierney continues to deny these allegations, but has cooperated fully in this process,” the diocese said. “Bishop Finn accepted and implemented the board’s recommendation effective June 2, 2011.”

Tierney could not be reached for comment last week.

Tierney was accused in a civil lawsuit last year of molesting a 13-year-old Missouri boy in 1971. The lawsuit alleged that the abuse occurred while the boy and Tierney were moving items at the home of the priest’s mother.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, a lawyer representing Tierney said his client had done nothing wrong. According to the lawsuit, the boy told Tierney that boys at St. Elizabeth Parish in Kansas City had a nickname for the priest: “Father Pumpkinhead.”

“Father Tierney rushed the boy, tackling him and holding him down while he forcibly and against the boy’s will touched and fondled the boy, rubbing all over his body, including his private areas,” the lawsuit said. “(The boy) repressed all memory of these events until approximately 2008.”

In a written statement, a spokeswoman for the diocese said the plaintiff contacted the church anonymously, through a third party, in 2008. Diocesan officials invited the individual to meet to discuss the complaint, “which was not described as sexual in nature,” according to the statement. The person declined.

Diocesan officials also interviewed Tierney, who denied any sexual misconduct against that individual or any other minor, the statement said.

And no other allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against Tierney, the diocese said at the time. “He will continue to serve as pastor of Christ the King parish, and he and the diocese will defend the lawsuit vigorously,” the statement said.

In a civil lawsuit filed in February against another priest, Tierney was accused of making “lewd and inappropriate comments” to a boy who was allegedly being molested by the priest. Tierney was not named as a defendant in that lawsuit.

In April, the diocese said its review board did not find any credible claim of sexual abuse involving Tierney. That was in response to calls by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for the Jackson County prosecutor to launch a grand jury investigation into what it called priest sex crimes and cover-ups in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The national group requested prosecution of the priest abuse cases and an investigation into church leaders’ response to those complaints.

David Clohessy, the group’s executive director, said that even though 18 current and former priests in the diocese had been accused by 80 people, none had been prosecuted.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said at the time it had stepped up its investigations of allegations made against priests, unless accusers refused to cooperate.

Summers said Finn, since assuming leadership of the diocese in 2005, had reaffirmed his commitment to protect children and involve the community in resolving complaints of abuse by priests. The Kansas City lawyer who filed the lawsuit last year against Tierney was stunned to hear about Tierney’s removal as pastor last Thursday.

“Unbelievable,” Rebecca Randles said. “We applaud the church’s move in dismissing him from the ministry but wonder why it’s taken so long.”


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