Group Wants Catholic Church in Kansas to Improve Communication about Sexual Abuse

Shawnee Dispatch
June 16, 2011

Advocates against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church were in Lawrence Thursday urging local church officials to be more proactive in outreach to victims.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said his organization was concerned about the potential for more sexual abuse victims of former Kansas priest John Martin Fiala.

Fiala, 52, was arrested in September by U.S. Marshals in Lawrence and extradited to Texas, where he is facing criminal charges for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor. Fiala is also charged with trying to hire a hitman to kill the alleged victim, according to the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Fiala served in 2001 and 2002 in the St. Joseph parish in Shawnee, followed by several months at a parish in Holton, according to news reports.

Clohessy spoke today at a news conference in front of the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement building.

“The local church officials have a moral and civic obligation to reach out and try to find anyone he may have hurt,” Clohessy said. Those are steps the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has yet to take, he said.

“We’ve seen no evidence that they’ve done real outreach,” he said.

Clohessy said there had not been any reported allegations that Fiala sexually abused anyone during his tenure in Kansas.

Rose Hammes, director of communication and planning for the archdiocese, took issue with Clohessy's allegations in an email statement Thursday to the Lawrence Journal-World.

"The SNAP statements are erroneous. We did work with all of the parishes that had contact with Fiala, inviting anyone from those parishes, if they had suffered abuse, to contact us. It was published in the parish bulletins. No one contacted the archdiocese," Hammes said.

A June 2010 Journal-World feature outlined allegations of sexual abuse in all four of the Kansas Catholic dioceses. At that time, no one from any of the dioceses would agree to an interview with the Journal-World regarding allegations of abuse.


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