Priest Accused of Abuse Was Given Parish Job

By Patricia Rice
April 8, 2002

A priest who is the younger brother of a national advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse was accused of molesting a college student nine years ago.

At that time, the Rev. Kevin Clohessy, brother of St. Louis-based advocate David Clohessy, was serving at a Catholic student center at Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, Mo. The university is now known as Truman State University.

Kevin Clohessy, 42, is currently on leave of absence from the Jefferson City diocese. He most recently worked as executive director of Boone County Red Cross in Columbia, but resigned March 28 after 14 months at the nonprofit agency.

Kevin Clohessy could not be reached for comment. In reply to a Post-Dispatch message left on the priest's answering machine, Jefferson City Diocese spokesman Mark Saucier said Clohessy declined to comment.

In a letter to students explaining his departure, Clohessy wrote of being under considerable stress but did not mention the allegation against him, said Sister Ethel Marie Biri, chancellor of the Jefferson City diocese.

The diocese sent the priest for treatment at the St. Jean Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer in 1993 after substantiating the student's complaint that he had been a victim of sexual abuse by Clohessy, diocesan officials said.

Just two years earlier, the relationship between Kevin Clohessy and his older brother, David, had become strained after David Clohessy filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson City diocese, alleging that another priest, the Rev. John Whiteley, had abused him when he was a teen-ager at St. Pius Parish in Moberly.

The case was dismissed in 1993 because the statute of limitations had run out.

Kevin Clohessy was released from treatment in 1995, Biri said. Based on advice of experts, he was then assigned to a parish - St. Francis Xavier in Taos, outside Jefferson City.

In May 2000, Clohessy requested a leave of absence, Biri said.

"When he left there, it was by his own choice," Biri said. "He has not officially resigned. He is still on leave of absence. He was not asked to leave."

Early this winter, the diocese tightened its standards and reviewed all its files of priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against minors who were in a parish and other public ministry. If Kevin Clohessy had not already been on leave, Biri said she expects he may have been removed from a parish since the case involved actions "very inappropriate" with a student.

Diocesan records do not indicate whether the student was a minor, Biri said.

David Clohessy said he learned about the abuse allegations against his brother in 1993, when the priest left Kirksville to obtain treatment in Dittmer.

"I was already involved in victim's advocacy," he said.

David Clohessy in 1991 founded an advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The group, based in St. Louis, has more than 3,500 members nationwide.

"I feel terribly sorry for anybody my brother victimized and for their families and for my family, especially my parents, and I hope that those people whom he hurt are able to come forward and get help," David Clohessy said.

Dawn Fallik of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Reporter Patricia Rice:
Phone: 314-340-8221


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