Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Abuse in 1970s

By Glenn E. Rice
Kansas City Star
February 8, 2012

A man who alleges that a Catholic priest sexually abused him decades ago filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against the priest, his religious order and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The plaintiff, who is a now a police officer living in another state, alleges that the Rev. James Urbanic sexually abused him in the mid-1970s while he was a student at Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph. Urbanic was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in St. Joseph and taught religion at the school.

Last summer, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood removed Urbanic from his duties after it received what it said were credible allegations of sexual improprieties against two minors in the mid-1970s.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said the diocese had not received the lawsuit, which was filed in Buchanan County, and could not comment about specific allegations.

Summers said Urbanic was immediately removed from his duties after information was presented to the diocese review board on June 29, 2011. After his removal, priests from the Precious Blood order visited each parish where he had served, including St. Francis Xavier, St. James in Liberty and Sacred Heart in Warrensburg.

"People of faith share the distress of any person who has experienced sexual abuse," Summers said in a statement. "When the abuser is a priest, the distress is magnified."

Summers added that anyone with information about child sexual abuse within the diocese should contact law enforcement and report it to the diocesan ombudsman, Jenifer Valenti.

The plaintiff, who filed the lawsuit as John Doe M.R., said in the lawsuit that he was a 15-year-old student at Bishop LeBlond when Urbanic invited him and other students to play pickup basketball. When he arrived, the plaintiff discovered he was the only student there and played one-on-one basketball with Urbanic, the lawsuit says.

During that and subsequent basketball games, the plaintiff said, Urbanic touched him inappropriately. Afterward, Urbanic routinely invited the student to the rectory for lemonade.

The lawsuit alleges that Urbanic made suggestive comments and invited the student to his bedroom. On one occasion, Urbanic sexually abused him, the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiff had memories of the basketball games but did not consider the touching to be abuse, said Rebecca Randles, his attorney. She said he came forward after he began to experience flashbacks of the assault in the bedroom.

The diocese and the religious order received reports in the mid-1970s that Urbanic had abused a student but failed to take appropriate action, the lawsuit alleges.



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