Kc Diocese Seeing Increased Child Abuse Calls

September 5, 2013

Calls to a child abuse ombudsman for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph increased 35 percent after the diocese enacted child protections programs in response to a controversy over how it handled past complaints.

Ombudsman Jenifer Valenti said in a report released Thursday that she received 107 calls about child abuse or "boundary violations" in the reporting year that ended in June, compared with 79 the previous reporting year, The Kansas City Star reported ( ).

"I attribute (the increase) to greater awareness of personal responsibility," Valenti said. "I see the greater numbers coming from our training on mandated reporting. That's a great thing."

The diocese implemented the programs after a 2011 controversy over Bishop Robert Finn's handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's production of child pornography. And a Jackson County judge demanded regular reports on child welfare in the diocese after convicting Finn a year ago of failing to report suspicions of child abuse, a misdemeanor.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the report Thursday, calling it "part of the carefully orchestrated public relations campaign to restore (Finn's) shattered image." It noted the report did not name any offenders, even those who were "credibly accused."

"A parent can't protect her child from a number. A parent needs - and deserves - to know who child molesting clerics and church staff are. That's what every US bishop pledged to do more than a decade ago. That's what this report, and Bishop Finn, still refuse to do, in case after case," SNAP said in a news release.

Valenti said 74 of the 107 calls were reports of child abuse or neglect about people who do not work as clergy, employees or volunteers in the diocese, including nine teachers and coaches outside the diocese. She referred 37 of those calls to civil authorities and sent others to counselors and social workers, the report said.

Two of the 17 reports of sexual abuse the diocese received last year were substantiated and in both cases, the clergy members previously had been removed from public ministry, the report said. One case was from "decades ago" and the other was from more than two years ago, Valenti said.

Investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing in six cases, while five cases ultimately were found to be unsubstantiated. Investigations are pending in three cases, and one cleric was referred to a religious order for review, but later was cleared by civil authorities, The Star reported.

Valenti investigated 16 reports of "boundary violations," and two people tied to the diocese were removed from ministry, employment or volunteer service. After education and training, seven others returned to service at the diocese, while five were cleared. One cleric was referred to a religious order for investigation of boundary violations and one investigation is pending, according to the report.

Carrie Cooper, the diocese's child protection director, said her office provided 92 counseling sessions to 28 victims of sexual abuse and their family members, and anti-abuse training to almost 10,500 Catholic schoolchildren.








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