Sued Priest Is Reinstated at Parish
Sex-Abuse Lawsuit Defendant to Be Barred from Work with Youths

By Greg Clark
Kansas City Star
September 1, 1994

A priest suspended in February because of sexual-abuse allegations has been reinstated after receiving overwhelming support in balloting at an Independence parish.

Parishioners of Nativity of the Blessed Mary Parish voted 845-17 in July to allow the Rev. Thomas Ward to return. He was reinstated Aug. 15 by Bishop Raymond Boland of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Ward will be restricted from involvement in children's programs until a civil lawsuit is resolved.

Ward and the diocese were named in a lawsuit early this year by Nicholas Gray of Kansas City. The lawsuit alleges that Ward seduced Gray in 1982 when Gray was 14 and seeking guidance on sexual problems during confession at St. Catherine's Church. The balloting was done after Ward received a psychological evaluation. "The results could not substantiate that he had any deviant sexual attitudes or behavior, and of course Father Ward had denied this allegation as well," the Rev. Richard Carney, diocese chancellor, said Wednesday.

"At that point our concern was that this civil suit could take a year to four years to come to trial, and in effectthat suit had simply put him on the shelf. We didn't think it was fair, given his denial and the results of the evaluation, to simply be out of service for up to four years. "

Carney said the restrictions against working with youth were made to protect Ward and parishioners. "We didn't want him to get in a position that would invite somebody else to make allegations. " The reinstatement was "hurtful and upsetting" to Gray, said his attorney, Robert V. Wells. "They didn't ask us to come to the congregation and tell our side, so I'm sure it was presented very one-sided. "

Wells said the reinstatement victimized Gray again.

"It takes a great deal of courage like this to come forward," Wells said. "My fear is that this sends a message to other victims: Don't come forward, because if you do, nothing will happen. " Jim Wyrsch, Ward's attorney, would not comment on Wells' statement.


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