Another Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse by Local Priests

The Examiner
November 5, 2011

Independence, MO —

A Southwest Missouri man filed a lawsuit this week accusing three Roman Catholic priests of sexually abusing him when he was between the ages of 9 and 12.

Joe Eldred, 40, who lives near Springfield, filed the lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Eldred alleges abuse by Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien, a retired priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese; the Rev. Mark Honhart, who left the diocese in 2001; and Thomas Reardon, who left the diocese and ministry in 1989.

Both O’Brien and Reardon have been named in dozens of sexual abuse lawsuits in recent years.

Eldred is seeking unspecified damages. He said he had repressed the memories of the abuse and that they began resurfacing earlier this year.

According to the diocese, Eldred had never reported the abuse to the diocese in the past 27 years.

According to the lawsuit, most of the abuse occurred at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Independence, where Eldred attended grade school, and at Lake Viking, a community about 60 miles northeast of Kansas City.

Eldred alleges O’Brien and Reardon took him to Lake Viking between 1981 and 1984, plying him with drugs and alcohol and abusing him in a car and at the lake house. The lawsuit also alleges that from about 1980 to 1984, Honhart sexually abused him.

According to the lawsuit, Eldred attempted suicide on several occasions because of the abuse.

The diocese said in a statement that “over the past 27 years, neither Joe Eldred nor anyone acting on his behalf ever made contact with the diocese to report the abuse.”

O’Brien has been named a defendant on several sexual abuse cases since 2004. O’Brien has been retired from parish ministry since 1984 and restricted permanently from representing himself as a member of the clergy, according to the Kanas City-St. Joseph diocese.

In 2008, he was one of 12 priests who were the subjects of a $10 million settlement that the diocese reached with 47 plaintiffs.

Honhart worked in six parishes in the diocese from 1980 to 2001, according to the diocese. His most recent service was a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Scranton in Pennsylvania

The diocese said that “over the 21-year period of Father Honhart’s ministry in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, there were no complaints of sexual misconduct brought to the attention of his superiors.”

Reardon left the ministry in 1989 after serving in five parishes.

The diocese said it is in the process of formally removing him from the priesthood through church courts.

The diocese said in its statement issued this week that it will respond to “all allegations of abuse.” As of Friday, the diocese has not acquired a copy of the complaint.


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