Victims Want Private Funeral for Priest

October 24, 2013


For more information: David Clohessy (314) 566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314) 862-7688

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing the Diocese of Kansas City - St Joseph’s top Catholic official asking him to make sure that a priest's funeral is private, not public.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are asking Bishop Robert Finn to keep services discreet and out of the parish’s spotlight for the funeral of a credibly accused predator clergy member.

Msgr. Thomas O'Brien was sued at least 20 times for sexually abusing boys and had worked in Springfield MO, Independence MO, as well as Kansas City.


“Dozens of boys who were sexually assaulted by Msgr. Thomas O'Brien have suffered enough. And thousands of Catholics who were scandalized and betrayed - by Msgr. O'Brien's crimes and church cover ups - have suffered enough,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “Please do not add to their pain. Please do not let Msgr. O'Brien be buried in a Catholic cemetery with full honors in a public ceremony. "

“Finn and his colleagues did little to protect kids from Msgr. O'Brien or help those hurt by Msgr. O'Brien,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s outreach director. “The least the can do now is to avoid rubbing even more salt into their intense wounds.”

SNAP’s request is not unprecedented.

?Then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland held a private funeral for Fr. Lawrence Murphy in 1998 because Murphy was accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys at a Wisconsin school.



Last year, SNAP objected to plans for a full, public church burial for Fr. Jerome Lanser in Milwaukee.



A prolific predator priest in Cincinnati named Fr. David Kelley also had a private funeral.


Here is a partial list of where Msgr. O’Brien worked - St. Agnes - Springfield MO, Catholic University - Washington DC, Holy Trinity - Kansas City MO, Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools Kansas City MO, Diocesan Moderator of High Schools - Kansas City MO, Legion of Decency Director - Kansas City MO, St. Pius X Home Kansas City MO, Diocesan School Board Member - Kansas City MO, Assistant Superintendent of Schools - Kansas City MO, St. Pius X High School - Kansas City MO, Diocesan Office for Ceremonies - Kansas City MO, St. Patrick's - Kansas City MO, Superintendent of Catholic Schools - Kansas City MO, St. Elizabeth's - Kansas City MO, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Independence MO - St. Joseph Health Center - Kansas City MO, St. Thomas More - Kansas City, MO.

SNAP's letter to Finn, sent today by fax and email (Fax 913-721-1577,,, Patty Montes, Bishop Finn's administrative assistant,, 816-756-1850, ext. 221, Fax: 816-756-0878), is below:

October 24, 2013

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn

Bishop of Kansas City and St. Joseph

20 West Ninth Street

Kansas City, Missouri 64105

Dear Bishop Finn,

News of the death of Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien has reignited pain and trauma among some of those who as children were sexually abused by this man. Moreover, supporters of these victims, along with people in the pews, share in this suffering and continue to long for healing.

Scandal has been a consequence of this sexual abuse and further scandal would only compound the crisis. Hence, steps must be taken to reverse the scandal and to repair the damage that has been done.

The most immediate step that you can – and should - take is to deprive Msgr. O’Brien from a church funeral. Actually, doing so would be in compliance with the Church’s canon law which calls for depriving a funeral for a manifest sinner whose funeral would generate public scandal to the faithful (canon 1184, §1, 3°).

Thus, we call upon you to announce immediately your decision to deprive Msgr. O’Brien of a public Catholic Church funeral. A private funeral would be much more sensitive.

We put little stock in internal church policies, in part because bishops often ignore them, just like they ignore secular laws. Still, as you know, you do indeed have the power to take this step, according to canon law:

Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

Please, Bishop, you can add to the already deep and widespread pain caused by decades of crime by Msgr. O’Brien and inaction by his supervisors and colleagues. Or you can avoid adding to that pain.

Please show some compassion here.

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell,

Statement by Mike Hunter of Kansas City, KC Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (913 634 6490,

David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests 314 566 9790,








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