Priest With Columbia Ties Put on Leave in Jefferson City

CoMo City Beat
March 25, 2019

A Catholic priest who served in Columbia was placed on administrative leave from his position in Jefferson City while the Diocese of Jefferson City investigates what it termed as “possible boundary violations.”

Father Geoffrey Brooke was placed on leave from his position as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Jefferson City.

Brooke, who was ordained in 2015, has also served in Columbia. According to the Sedalia Democrat and a Google summary from his now offline personal website, he served as a priest at Sacred Heart Parish from 2015-2017. He was also listed as an alum of St. Thomas More Newman Center in a 2015 Facebook post from parish alumni, and according to reports also provided weekend fill-in work at various parishes throughout mid-Missouri.

In a statement to CoMo City Beat, Helen Osman, the Director of Diocesan Communications for the Diocese of Jefferson City, confirmed both Brooke’s leave and the purpose of the investigation.

“When the Diocese was informed of possible boundary violations, following diocesan policy, we notified the Missouri Children’s Division hotline. Father Brooke has been placed on administrative leave while these allegations are investigated,” Osman said. She said the diocese also contacted local police.

According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, families of Immaculate Conception School were notified of the leave on March 10th. The letter was shared with the newspaper, and it’s authenticity was then confirmed by the diocese.

David Clohessy of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), took issue with how he felt Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight handled the issue.

“Bishop Shawn McKnight tried to pull a fast one and keep this under the radar,” Clohessy told CoMo City Beat. “He sent a letter to some parishioners but did nothing to notify the public. Thankfully, a concerned parishioner gave a copy of the letter to a news outlet and as a result, many more people knew that Fr. Brooke had been accused."

“It’s a disturbing step backwards – away from openness and towards secrecy – by a bishop who has seemingly prided himself on posturing as a ‘reformer’ on abuse,” Clohessy added.

Osman, for her part, said that the diocese will wait until the state concludes its investigation before determining what information needs to be provided or gathered from the public.

She also defended the diocese against Clohessy’s assertion that McKnight and the diocese mishandled informing the public.

“After notifying the proper civil authorities (state agency and police) we informed the parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish, the families at Immaculate Conception School and all leadership at our parishes and schools in the Diocese. I am not sure how the Diocese is ‘trying to pull a fast one,’” Osman said. “If the state or police determine further action needs to be taken, we will do so.”

The accusation against Brooke is merely an allegation at this point, and no criminal charges have been filed against him, according to a check of Missouri’s online court records.

As for what the diocese means by possible boundary violations, Osman referred CoMo City Beat to the handbook used by the diocese to teach the prevention of child abuse. In it, the handbook states that one’s personal boundaries could be physical, emotional, mental, behavioral or spiritual in nature.

Clohessy, meanwhile, encourages those with reports of abuse to contact law enforcement, calling them independent, experienced and unbiased. He said those reports should be made even if someone only suspects abuse.

“It’s our moral and civic duty to share what we know or suspect with law enforcement,” Clohessy said. “It’s their job to figure out what, if anything, can or should be done.”

The diocese also encourages anyone who’s been abused or knows someone who’s been victimized to report it. Their website asks individuals to contact the attorney general, local police, Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-3738, Missouri Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-0210, or the Diocese of Jefferson City victim assistance coordinator Nancy Hoey at 573-694-3199.


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