Former KC priest who was the subject of multiple child sexual abuse lawsuits has died
By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
December 30, 2020
A former Kansas City-area priest whom the diocese named in 2019 on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors has died.
The Rev. Michael Tierney, 76, died on Dec. 15. A private memorial service was held Monday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lee’s Summit, according to his obituary.
Tierney had been the subject of multiple civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors. In 2011, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph removed him from all pastoral assignments. He was never prosecuted, but the diocese’s list of more than two dozen credibly accused priests says that a canonical trial “decreed guilt in multiple cases.”
Born in 1944 and ordained in 1969, Tierney served in Kansas City and St. Joseph parishes. His last posting was at Christ the King in Kansas City, where he worked until diocesan officials removed him in June 2011.
Tierney repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The first lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleged that Tierney abused a 13-year-old in the 1970s. The plaintiff alleged that Tierney had asked him to move furniture at the priest’s mother’s house and then fondled and groped him.
A lawsuit filed in late 2011 — the fifth to be filed against Tierney — accused him of sexually abusing an altar boy at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. It also alleged that Tierney took the plaintiff and another boy to Lake Viking near Cameron, Mo.
The lawsuit said that Tierney and Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien provided alcohol to a group of boys at the lake house and that some boys became “inebriated or high to the point of insensibility.” O’Brien, who died in 2013, had been named as a defendant in more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits.
In 2011, Tierney was named in a breach of contract lawsuit filed by dozens of plaintiffs who won a $10 million settlement from the diocese in 2008 in cases involving 12 other priests. The victims claimed the diocese violated the terms of the settlement in its handling of Tierney and the Rev. Shawn Ratigan by not reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy to authorities. In 2014, a judge ordered the diocese to pay $1.1 million to the victims.
Tierney also was one of the priests covered in a $10 million settlement agreement the diocese made with plaintiffs in 2014. That settlement covered 32 lawsuits filed from September 2010 through February 2014. Those lawsuits involved 14 current and former priests in allegations of sexual abuse covering three decades.