Lawsuits Filed against Kc Diocese Allege Priest Sexual Abuse, Including Rape in 2018
By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
July 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is facing two new sexual abuse lawsuits involving two priests, one alleging rape in a church rectory two years ago.
Filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, the civil suits allege that the diocese covered up the abuse, which allowed the priests to gain access to and sexually abuse other vulnerable individuals as well.
“No one can wish this continuing crisis away,” said David Clohessy, former executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which announced the filing of the lawsuits Tuesday afternoon at a news conference in Kansas City. “It takes courageous action to expose and remove sick clerics. We applaud these two brave victims and hope others in pain will keep stepping forward.”
The diocese said in a statement that one of the priests died while the diocese was in the process of permanently removing him from the priesthood. The other, the diocese said, is no longer allowed to present himself as a priest.
One lawsuit, filed July 20, names the diocese and the Rev. Darvin Salazar as defendants, alleging that Salazar sexually assaulted the plaintiff in the rectory at Holy Cross Catholic Church in northeast Kansas City, then prevented him from leaving. The 10 counts include allegations of battery, false imprisonment, negligence, intentional failure to supervise clergy, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Salazar was a priest at Sacred Heart and Holy Cross parishes in Kansas City when the alleged abuse occurred, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiff, an adult Missouri resident, was a student at the time but not a minor.
The lawsuit says the plaintiff — identified as John Doe 25 — was raised in a devout Catholic family, regularly attended weekly Mass and served as an altar boy. After graduating from high school, the lawsuit says, he attended religious-affiliated training and school, and Salazar was his mentor and priest.
In July 2018, the lawsuit alleges, the plaintiff was asked to come to Holy Cross parish, where Salazar had recently been assigned.
“Defendant enticed Plaintiff to the rectory by representing he was providing spiritual counseling, comfort, mentor and advice to plaintiff,” the lawsuit says. “When Plaintiff arrived at the Parish, Defendant Salazar plied him with alcohol and began to attempt to seduce the student. Later that night, Fr. Salazar overpowered plaintiff and forcibly sexually molested, assaulted and raped the student in the rectory of Holy Cross Church.”
Salazar “locked the door to Plaintiff’s room, took his cell phone and prevented Plaintiff from leaving the premises of Holy Cross Church and Parish before, during and after the sexual assault of Plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese had received reports about Salazar’s “inappropriate and illegal sexual predation” from at least five others but failed to remove him from service until after he committed sexual crimes against the plaintiff.
Rebecca Randles, the plaintiff’s attorney, said he reported the sexual abuse to police.
“We understand that there are other victims,” she said, “and the police have kept open their investigation in hopes that those other victims will come forward.”
Randles said, however, that because of a language barrier, some might be afraid to speak out. “They may fear coming forward because of political concerns,” she said.
In its statement, the diocese said that Salazar “remains under canonical suspension and cannot present himself as a priest or serve in any Diocesan ministry.”
The statement continued: “Following the law enforcement investigation in 2018, the Jackson County Prosecutor declined to press charges against Fr. Salazar. Therefore, he has a legal right to privacy which the diocese is obliged to respect. The Diocese is committed to full cooperation with law enforcement. Any allegations against Fr. Salazar following the initial accusation have all been presented to law enforcement, but law enforcement have declined to bring any criminal charges against Fr. Salazar.
“In an effort to be transparent, the Diocese broadcast the accusations and Diocesan response in several ways, including a public statement on the Diocesan website on September 18, 2018; an article in the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Key on September 27, 2018; and a statement read to the congregations recently served by Fr. Salazar (Holy Cross and Sacred Heart Guadalupe Parishes). The diocese has also communicated to the public through the news media.”
The second lawsuit, filed Tuesday, alleges sexual abuse by John R. Tulipana, a former diocesan priest who has been the subject of numerous sexual abuse lawsuits. It alleges that Tulipana repeatedly assaulted a 13-year-old boy while at Coronation of Our Lady Catholic Church in Grandview in 1977.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s father died of cancer when he was a small boy, and when he was having difficulty dealing with the death, his mother sent him to Tulipana for counseling.
“As the counseling progressed, Fr. Tulipana became more and more affectionate toward the boy,” the lawsuit says. “This led to the priest performing oral sex on the young boy and requiring the boy to perform sex acts on him as well. Fr. Tulipana became increasingly physical with the boy, eventually sexually assaulting and sodomizing him.”
The sexual assaults and abuse occurred on multiple occasions throughout 1977 and led to a lifetime of substance abuse and mental health problems, the lawsuit alleges. It says that because of psychological coping mechanisms and long-term injuries, the plaintiff “had no recollection of the events in question until they returned to him in the late summer of 2018.”
The plaintiff, who still lives in the Kansas City area, filed the lawsuit as John Doe 63.
Tulipana, who died in 2012, is on a list of priests the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese says have been found to have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor lodged against them.
In a statement released Tuesday, Tulipana’s alleged victim said that “the awful moments that occurred during that time of my life continue to reveal themselves through counseling.”
“I was taken to him for help,” he said. “Unfortunately, help was the furthest thing from his mind. The most horrendous part of these seemingly never-ending revelations, of countless individuals, is that my church was completely aware. The hierarchy, the bureaucracy, the individuals in positions of authority, indeed ‘The Holy See’ itself, were entirely complicit. I feel robbed. Not only was a part of my life taken. My very religion itself, a part of me, was stolen. My wife and children suffered through years of my issues.
“I am grateful that I survived. I wonder how many did not?”
Randles said both priests carefully targeted those who were among the least likely or able to speak up.
“Though Father Tulipana can’t harm children any more, we worry about Father Salazar, whose whereabouts are unclear,” she said. “We hope anyone who was hurt by him calls law enforcement soon.
“I’m sure Kansas City Catholics are tired of hearing about more abuse and cover up. But the only chance for real redemption is for every child-molesting cleric to be exposed, and every single victim to start recovering.”