Catholic Officials Named Them As Abusers. Now These Former St. Louis Clergy Must Face Their Pasts.
By Jesse Bogan, Erin Heffernan and Nassim Benchaabane
September 7, 2019
Athletico Physical Therapy, which has hundreds of storefronts across the Midwest, offers personalized treatment plans for anything from back pain to male pelvic health to gymnastics and cheerleading rehabilitation.
One of its locations in a strip mall off Highway K in O’Fallon buzzed with activity on a recent afternoon. A young woman in black tights and a Mizzou T-shirt stretched near a half dozen other clients trying to work through the pain of lingering injuries.
Dennis J. McClintock, 72, a rehabilitation aide, sat at the edge of the workout floor, sporting an orange Hawaiian shirt, a stark contrast to the white clerical collar he used to wear as a Roman Catholic priest.
On July 26, the Archdiocese of St. Louis made a long-awaited splash by releasing a list of former clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Some names were already widely known; their abuse had been the subject of lawsuits and news stories. Others, including McClintock’s, were being made public for the first time.
Who these priests and deacons were and what they had done was largely hidden — and still is. More than a month after the list was released, neighbors, co-workers and victims are in the dark.
Unlike similar lists released by Catholic organizations from around the country, the archdiocese didn’t say where the men served. Nor did it include the number of alleged victims and what happened to them.
Decades after leaving the archdiocese, they have lived second lives. They’ve counseled high school students, owned appliance stores and helped young athletes rehabilitate their bodies. Two left their pasts in St. Louis and moved away.
|The Rev. Dennis J. McClintock in a photo published in the 1990s by St. Monica Catholic Church in Creve Coeur.|
Another has been working at a Baptist church. Contacted by the Post-Dispatch, he admitted abuse and prayed it hadn’t scarred the victims. Others said the archdiocese smeared them without a chance to defend themselves. One said he hadn’t even heard he was on the list until a reporter called.
Even though an archdiocesan spokesman said in July the church had “found nothing new that alarmed us,” those on the outside who have closely monitored allegations of clergy sex abuse have been startled by the latest revelations.
Former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce recalled inviting the public to share information about clergy sex abuse during a comprehensive grand jury investigation of the archdiocese her office ran in the early 2000s.
“We received many calls, but the statute of limitations had already run on virtually all of them,” she said. “It made me physically ill to see the crimes that had been covered up over the years. It still does.”
The recent list turned up a surprise that stunned her. Joyce said the Rev. Marvin C. Kopff was based at St. Joan of Arc Parish in south St. Louis while she was in elementary school there. She described him as “almost larger than life.”
“He was very well-loved and respected,” she said. “Now I wonder what the nature of the allegation against him was, and if it involves any conduct from his days at SJA.”
Kopff, who died in 2006, was among 26 men on the archdiocese’s list named publicly for the first time, according to an analysis by the Post-Dispatch. Of that number, eight are alive.
Two of the eight — Vincent A. Heier, 68, and Keith M. Westrich, 64 — have been subjects of news stories in recent weeks.
The Post-Dispatch found Heier, who was accused of sexually abusing at least one altar boy, celebrating Mass at a retirement home for disgraced priests in rural Franklin County. He also recently worked as a chaplain of an organization that celebrates Civil War veterans.
Ordained in 1981, Westrich’s “priestly faculties” were removed in 1986, but within four years he became a career specialist counselor for high schools in Boston and eventually climbed the bureaucratic ladder at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary Education. After the list was released, he retired as a commissioner there amid a state investigation into his behavior.
Like Heier and Westrich, the other six men appear to have blended back into society, living quiet, unremarkable lives — until the church named them.
The rehabilitation aide
Approached at Athletico on Aug. 23, McClintock was too busy to visit with a Post-Dispatch reporter.
“I don’t have time to speak with you,” he said.
Nor did he follow up. But three women did who said McClintock crossed boundaries at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church and grade school in south St. Louis County.
One of them, now 40, said McClintock took her to a hockey game one night when she was 11 or 12. Just the two of them in the car, she said, he put his hand on her leg. During interactions at school, she said, he’d pull her close by the waist.
The behavior was strange enough to make her wonder what became of McClintock after he disappeared from ministry in the early 1990s. Then her mother called crying when the list was publicized, fearing she hadn’t done enough to protect her daughter years ago.
The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, didn’t know that McClintock had been living in a St. Charles County subdivision. She soon found out that he was married with an adopted son. She said she felt sickened that he was working under the radar at Athletico, the physical therapy chain.
“Yes, people change,” she said. “People can rehabilitate themselves and never be the person they were in their past, but there are so many what ifs.”
McClintock was ordained in 1973 and worked at several parishes. He was removed from ministry in 1993, and “laicized” — dismissed from a clerical state — in 2005. He was last listed in Catholic directories as on sick leave in 1994.
McClintock went on to work for Drury Hotels before becoming general manager of a hotel that’s used for retreats at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Snows in Belleville. He worked there until around 2009. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic religious order that runs the shrine, did not answer questions about why he left the post.
“All the hiding and lying about all of this is what really bothers me,” said the woman who knew McClintock as a young girl. “Regular people who are accused of these terrible things go to court, sometimes go to jail, have a record, are held accountable. They can’t just pick up a wife, adopt a child and work in such a personal field like nothing ever happened.”
After being contacted by the Post-Dispatch, Athletico fired McClintock. In a statement, the chain said, “Although our investigation found nothing suggesting the safety or care of any patient was ever in jeopardy, and no patients have ever complained about Mr. McClintock, his failure to disclose those earlier actions violated our personal conduct standards and we terminated his employment.”
Michael Toohey claims he was blindsided when he was named by the archdiocese.
“I have no idea why I’m listed,” said Toohey when reached by phone at his Creve Coeur home where he lives with his wife of 46 years. Toohey said the archdiocese never told him that he had been accused of sexual abuse until the list was released.
Now 77 and retired, Toohey was ordained in 1967 and spent three years as a priest.
|Michael W. Toohey in 1978, when he was named an executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of St. Louis. (Post-Dispatch file photo)|
When asked if he had ever sexually abused children, Toohey said: “Not that I’m aware of. I’ve been away from the priesthood for 49 years and this comes out of nowhere.”
An archdiocese spokesman said it was possible Toohey was never informed that anyone had accused him of abuse before his name was released to the public.
“I have a wife, three kids and seven grandkids and they all have to see this? I’m hoping the archdiocese will explain because they seem to have so much of the wrong information,” Toohey said.
Toohey said he left the priesthood of his own volition in March 1970 because he disagreed with the church’s direction, feeling that it had become too permissive on contraception and divorce, among other issues.
Toohey and his attorney met with the archdiocese after his name was released, but the archdiocese refused to tell him the details of the accusation against him, saying only that someone came forward in 2002 with a claim, said his attorney Eric Selig.
The archdiocese also would not provide the Post-Dispatch with any details about the accusations against Toohey or any other former clergy on the list. Spokesman Peter Frangie, in a statement, cited “the interest of protecting victims’ privacy, and of healing for our parishes and the entire archdiocesan faith community.”
Frangie added that the allegation is “substantiated” if a review board found enough evidence to show the allegation is “more likely true than not true.”
Toohey was permanently removed from the clergy in 1972. He went on to graduate with a master’s of business administration from St. Louis University and a long career working for trade groups in St. Louis and Georgia.
In his retirement, he was a volunteer on several charity boards, including Lolly’s Place, which offers tutoring and other educational programs for children out of Trinity Presbyterian Church in University City. Toohey left the board in May 2018.
Lolly’s Place executive director Mary Pat Gallagher said she’s known Toohey and his wife as friends for years, but never had any idea he had been accused of abuse before seeing his name in the news. In his role on the board, Gallagher said Toohey didn’t have direct contact with children.
“I still have basically no information about what he’s even accused of,” Gallagher said. “Mike is a great man, so I don’t know what to think.”
‘Talk to my lawyer’
Donald G. Brinkman lives in Maryland Heights within a few minutes’ drive of the former St. Blaise Church grounds, the last parish he served as a priest before he was listed on medical leave by the church in the late 1990s for unknown reasons.
Brinkman, 78, declined to comment when approached by a reporter at his home.
“You’ll have to talk to my lawyer,” Brinkman said before shutting his front door.
Brinkman, ordained in 1968, was first assigned to St. Margaret of Scotland but served at several parishes. In 1987, he was named executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, which tries to draw people to religious life.
He went on medical leave in the mid-1990s and his name disappears from Catholic directories in 2000. It’s not clear how Brinkman has been spending his time for the 19 years since.
The former St. Blaise church grounds are now the grounds for Holy Spirit Parish, which was formed in 2004 when three parishes combined.
A woman who recently answered the door of the parish office said Brinkman was known to the parish but was not an active member. The parish hadn’t received any inquiries about him after the archdiocese’s list was released, she said.
Legacy of a ‘kiss’
John J. Kaske, 89, said he didn’t know he had been named as an abuser until he responded to a voice message a Post-Dispatch reporter left with his wife of 59 years at their home in Phoenix.
“I think ‘abuse’ is a stretch of the imagination,” Kaske said.
In his last year of priesthood, a teenage girl accused him of kissing her, Kaske said. But he claims it was the other way around.
“I don’t know how you prove that you didn’t kiss her, she kissed you,” Kaske said with a chuckle. “But that is what happened.”
Kaske was a priest in the St. Louis area from 1956 until 1960, assigned to the former St. Aloysius parish in Spanish Lake. He also taught a religion class at the then newly opened Corpus Christi Parish High School in Jennings.
In 1959, Kaske said he was driving home the 16- or 17-year-old girl from an event at either of his assignments, something he did occasionally for other children but had never done for her, he said.
He doesn’t remember the girl’s name, or any other details, he said. He just remembers his surprise when, at some point during the drive, she leaned over and kissed him on the mouth, he said.
“I think I said, ‘No, no, no, no, no,’” he said. “Something like that.”
Kaske dropped her off at home and didn’t talk to her again, he said. He has long since told his family about the incident but didn’t talk to anyone else about it at the time, he said.
“It wasn’t significant — other than it was unusual,” Kaske said. “What am I going to share?”
About a year after the kiss, a church official called him to his office to tell him a girl alleged he kissed her, Kaske said. The church recommended he go to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, run by the Servants of the Paraclete religious order, which runs centers around the country that house disgraced priests, including those accused of abuse.
Kaske, long frustrated by the pastor at St. Aloysius, was “already on his way out” of the priesthood, he said. He made up his mind to leave for good less than five days into the retreat.
Kaske didn’t care then what officials made of the allegation against him, he said.
“It was sort of like, I was leaving and getting out of there, and was like, whatever they do find, they find,” he said.
Kaske left St. Louis for Oakland, California, accompanied by the woman who would become his wife. They were married in the church the same year Kaske voluntarily quit the priesthood, he said. The couple lived in the St. Louis area from about 1979 until as late as 1988 where they owned a Chesterfield appliance store, Kaske Kitchens.
Kaske remains a devout Catholic and attends a church near his home every day, he said. He says he never thought about the allegation against him. He has a few nephews and friends in the St. Louis area, but he isn’t worried about them seeing his name on the list.
“I have had so much that has happened from that time to now, that this is not predominant in my mind,” he said. “If somebody who knew me in St. Louis sees my name on that list, I’m OK with that.”
Praying for no scars
When Fred Hummel and Carl H. Beckman were ordained as deacons in the church, they were both married men. They still are today.
“You’ve heard the song, ‘Stand By Your Man’?” said Phyllis Beckman, rubbing Carl’s shoulders during a lengthy interview with the couple.
Phyllis knew about the skeleton in Carl’s closet before they were married 49 years ago. But Carl didn’t share it with the archdiocese when he became a deacon. He didn’t think he was at risk of harming children again.
“I felt called to that vocation. And you know what I still feel good talking to people, as I did as a deacon,” Carl said. “Except for whenever I had kids with me, I always tried to have an adult in the room with me.”
“And the door wide open,” said his wife.
Carl, now 75, said he molested about four boys over a series of months in the mid-1960s as an assistant Boy Scout troop leader in Webster Groves. He said he was 20 at the time and hooked on phenobarbital, an addictive medication that he was taking for seizures. He never considered himself a pedophile.
According to a Post-Dispatch article in 1964, he was arrested for luring about 15 youngsters into his car on various occasions. Court files say Beckman masturbated and sometimes placed his hand on their thighs. The children’s ages ranged from 4 to 13. In 1965, another story about Carl ran under the headline: “Court asked to declare man a sexual psychopath.”
Rather than prison, Beckman said he was committed to Fulton State Hospital, a maximum security facility, from 1965 to 1968. He responded well to treatment, court records show. Beckman said getting weaned off phenobarbital helped him get his life on track.
He married Phyllis in 1970 in northwest Missouri. The couple moved to St. Louis in 1979 where a priest at their parish, Seven Holy Founders in south St. Louis County, encouraged him to be a deacon.
“They never did ask me, you know, have you ever been charged with a felony or anything,” he said. “Had they done that, I probably would have shared it with them.”
Even still, he said, a concerned woman from the parish who was aware of his past, threatened to go public if something wasn’t done. Carl said he considered quitting. Instead, the archdiocese moved him a few miles away to St. Simon the Apostle, where he instructed altar boys among other duties.
It wasn’t until 2002, under heightened church scrutiny, when he said the archdiocese told him that he should quietly step down to avoid criticism. He resigned. One year later, he said, he was let go from the archdiocese accounting office, where he’d helped churches keep their books straight.
Carl went out on his own. He did accounting for various churches and nonprofit organizations.
During the recent interview, he said he still works 30 hours a week at Maplewood Baptist Church.
“They don’t have any children there to begin with,” he said. “Not that I am worried about it anyway.”
Just one background check picked up the old molestation charges, he said. It was in the late 1980s, when he and Phyllis were trying to adopt a child internationally. He said his fingerprints alerted officials.
Carl said he hasn’t drawn any complaints since the 1960s.
“It’s been 55 years,” he said. “I just want to bring this to some kind of closure so I can live whatever years I have left in peace.”
He didn’t know what became of his victims.
“I know it was nothing more than just fondling or something,” he said. “I mean I don’t remember a lot of it. … I hope that they didn’t suffer any scars from it. … In fact, I pray not.”
One of the girls who Beckman lured into his car and dumped in a remote area is now in her 60s. A devout Catholic, she said she forgives him and believes that he has redeemed himself.
“It’s important for people to know that you don’t have to hate someone,” she said.
‘The bogeyman in the dark’
Stephen Martin says the deacon who molested him ruined his life.
Martin, the son of Catholic school educators, said he first met Fred Hummel in 1993 at a Teens Encounter Christ retreat in Southeast Missouri and thought he was a godsend.
At the time, Martin was considering entering the priesthood.
“I felt like it was the only way to be gay and it not matter,” said Martin, now 43. “And I did like the idea of giving sermons.”
Martin was 17 and also struggling when he attended the retreat. A close friend had just committed suicide, and he had been fighting with his father about being gay. Martin looked to Hummel for guidance, and confided in the deacon about his homosexuality.
“I had become closer to him because he hadn’t told me that I was going to hell,” Martin recalled.
Martin’s parents met Hummel at the retreat, and decided Martin should spend a week in St. Louis shadowing the deacon.
“My mom felt pretty safe with it because he had a wife,” Martin recalled. “He was well-liked by the group.”
Hummel, an accountant, had been a deacon at Holy Innocents Church near Tower Grove Park since the late 1980s and comptroller for the archdiocese.
Martin said another side of the deacon soon appeared on his trip.
Camping at St. Francois State Park on the first night of the visit, Martin said Hummel joked about going skinny-dipping. The next day, Martin was cleaning himself up in an apartment at the archdiocese’s headquarters in Shrewsbury. He said the deacon joined him in the shower there uninvited.
On the way to Hummel’s house in south St. Louis, he said the deacon held his hand and asked if Martin thought another boy they’d met was cute.
Martin said Hummel fondled him repeatedly while Martin was staying in his basement over the course of the week.
“The whole time I was trying to be asleep or just frozen there,” Martin said.
He said mind games were the most damaging part of the abuse.
“He said it was something that I had done,” Martin recalled.
According to court records, two years after the alleged abuse Hummel and the archdiocese settled a lawsuit with Martin for $80,000. Though there was no admission of guilt, the money was supposed to help pay for therapy.
Martin, who recently moved to the East Coast from St. Charles County, didn’t know the deacon’s name had been publicized this summer until a Post-Dispatch reporter told him. He wished it would have happened sooner.
“It kind of validates that there was something done wrong,” he said.
Perhaps he could have lived with less fear. He said he’s been treated about 20 times at mental hospitals, as recently as 2018. He struggles to believe people are what they say they are.
“Maybe having him exposed would have helped eliminate the bogeyman in the dark,” he said.
After he filed the lawsuit, Martin said a panel of priests told him it wasn’t a good time to pursue religious life. The archdiocese stood by Hummel. He continued to work at Holy Innocents until 2002, seven years after the settlement, according to Catholic directories. Frangie, the archdiocese’s spokesman, said Hummel was removed from the ministry in 1993, which meant he “would not have been administering any of the sacraments.”
Hummel lost his job as comptroller in 1993 but was kept on board in a clerical position at the archdiocese, Frangie said, “where he could be monitored away from the public, namely children and vulnerable adults, a position in which he served without incident until his retirement in 2014.”
Now 71, Hummel continues to live in the house where Martin said he was victimized. A sign in the front yard says the household accepts neighbors from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
On a recent morning, Hummel answered the door and, when asked for comment, closed it.
“No, thank you,” he said. “No, thank you.”