Lawsuit Filed against Catholic Diocese Alleges Abuse from Now-dead Priest

By Laura McCallister, Multimedia Producer, Jonathan Carter
February 10, 2012

[with video]

Another lawsuit has been filed against the Kansas City area Catholic Diocese. The allegations accuse a now-dead priest of abusing a young boy in the 70s.

The lawsuit names the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and, in particular, Father James Ford who died in 1992.

According to SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Ford abused the victim in the 70s. The group also alleges Ford, who left the priesthood in 1986, died of AIDS.

SNAP official Barbara Dorris said the lawsuit is the result of a broken trust between the diocese and the community

"It is another predator-priest that Bishop Finn has failed to take action on. They promised, and it's been 10 years now… open, honest, transparent. He has a list of credibly accused predators. He has a list of those that have admitted their crimes. He need to post that so the victims can find it and seek healing, and so that parents can find it and protect their children," she said a press conference Thursday.

In response, the diocese released a statement saying the only complaint they have received concerning Ford was after he resigned the priesthood and was dead. They said they worked with the individual in 1995 and the individual accepted counseling at the expense of the diocese, as well as a financial settlement.

Through media representatives, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph has learned that an unnamed individual has filed a civil lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court alleging sexual abuse in the 1970s by James Ford, an individual who left the priesthood in 1986.

James Ford was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1973, resigned from ministry in 1986 and died in 1992. During his ministry, Ford served as associate pastor of three Kansas City area parishes: Holy Cross from 1973 to 1977, St. John Francis Regis from 1977 to 1979 and St. Peter from 1979 to 1983. After pursuing post-graduate studies at Boston College, in 1985 Ford joined the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, a religious education training program for adults. Over the next 18 months, Ford coordinated New Wine, a program for lay ministry formation offered through the Center.

Three years after Ford's death, an individual contacted the diocese in 1995 to make a report of sexual abuse by Ford, pointing to events from the early 1980s. The individual accepted counseling services at the expense of the diocese as well as a financial settlement. At that time, a member of the Diocesan Response Team contacted local law enforcement about Ford and the nature of the reported abuse.

Information from this individual, the counseling services and the settlement was included in the Special Report Regarding the Diocesan Response to the Sexual Abuse of Minors. Published by the diocese in December 2011, the Special Report is available on the diocesan website.

The diocese has pledged to all parishioners and to the community that the Ombudsman, Jenifer Valenti, will receive respectfully any report of suspicious or inappropriate behavior concerning the actions of an employee, volunteer, or member of the clergy. The Ombudsman will act on the information quickly and investigate the concern thoroughly. Through the Office of Child and Youth Protection, the diocese continues its commitment to protecting children and offering support for healing and reconciliation to survivors of abuse.








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