Criminal trial of KCK priest accused of sexually abusing a minor is delayed

By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
April 2, 2019

The Rev. Scott Kallal

Sexual abuse victims and their advocates making plans to attend a rare criminal trial this month of a priest charged with molesting a child will now have to wait until at least this summer.

The trial of the Rev. Scott Kallal, which was set to begin April 15 in Wyandotte County District Court, has been continued. At a hearing last week, the court — over the prosecution’s objection — granted Kallal’s request for more time. A status conference on the case is set for June 7, and a new trial date has not yet been scheduled.

The action frustrated victims’ advocates.

“Accused wrongdoers often exploit delays, hoping that victims, witnesses and whistleblowers will give up or get intimidated,” said David Clohessy, former executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope this move will help prod others with knowledge of or suspicions about him to step forward...”

Kallal, a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, was charged in Wyandotte County District Court in 2017 with two felony counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Kallal has pleaded not guilty.

At Kallal’s preliminary hearing in 2017, a 13-year-old girl testified that when she was 10, Kallal twice tickled her breasts against her wishes. The first alleged incident was at a friend’s graduation party in Bonner Springs in spring 2015. The girl said she and other girls were outside playing soccer when Kallal tickled her inappropriately.

The second alleged incident took place a few months later at the parish hall gymnasium at St. Patrick’s Church in Kansas City, Kansas.

The archdiocese suspended Kallal in 2017 from public priestly ministry as associate pastor at Holy Spirit Church in Overland Park. It later issued a statement saying Kallal “denies any moral misconduct or malicious intent and has agreed to undergo evaluation and counseling.”

Kallal’s court hearing on Friday came the same day that another Catholic diocese in Kansas released its own list of abusive priests.

The Diocese of Salina published on its website the names of 14 diocesan priests who it said have had substantiated allegations of abuse of a minor. The list was released after newly appointed Bishop Gerald Vincke in September commissioned an independent review of the diocese’s priest files. The review was conducted by Courtney Boehm, at the time the Marion County attorney and now a district court judge in the 8th Judicial District.

“The entirety of this comprehensive report was immediately turned over to the Attorney General’s office, who then forwarded it to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI),” Vincke said in a statement Friday.

None of the 14 priests are in active ministry today, the Salina diocese said. Twelve are deceased, and the remaining two have been removed from the priesthood.

The Salina diocese also published the names of 13 priests of the Order of Franciscan Minors Capuchin Province of St. Conrad who have served in that diocese at some point in their ministry and have had credible allegations of abuse of a minor lodged against them. The province, which is headquartered in Denver, released those names last week after conducting its own independent investigation.

The Capuchins are a religious order that has had a strong presence in the Salina diocese, particularly in the Hays and Victoria areas in western Kansas. The St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria made national headlines last fall when former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who stepped down in July over allegations that he sexually abused seminarians and minors for decades, was sent there to live out a “life of prayer and penance.” McCarrick was defrocked by the Vatican in February.

The friary is located next to the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria, which is more commonly known as “The Cathedral of the Plains.” The church, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, is on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2008 was named one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas.”

Vincke apologized to victims and parishioners and described several cases in which the diocese mishandled allegations of priest sex abuse.

“It is difficult to share these failings with you,” he said. “But, I think it is necessary. The Church needs to be open, honest and transparent. The Church has made mistakes. The Diocese of Salina has made mistakes. I am very sorry for the mistakes that we have made. It is my sincere desire that we can learn from our errors and never let them happen again.”

In Missouri, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on Monday released the names of additional priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors while serving in that diocese. The list brings to 23 the number of credibly accused diocesan and religious order priests. Another 11 religious order priests served in the diocese and had substantiated abuse claims that occurred outside the diocese, according to the list.

The document included two former Kansas City priests whom it described as being from another diocese but having credible allegations.

Monsignor Thomas O’Brien was the subject of more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He died in 2013. John C. Baskett was named in a 2008 lawsuit in which a 71-year-old woman sued the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, saying Baskett sexually abused her when she was a teenager. Baskett retired in 1975 and died in 1995.

Both Baskett and O’Brien were among a dozen priests accused in lawsuits filed by 47 plaintiffs that the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese settled for $10 million in 2008. The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese also settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $2.25 million in 2013 with the parents of a boy who allegedly took his own life 30 years earlier because of repeated sexual abuse by O’Brien.

And in 2014, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle 30 lawsuits that alleged sexual abuse by 13 priests, including O’Brien.

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