|Flores Stands by Story
Denies He Knew Priest Was Having Sexuntil 2000
By J. Michael Parker
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
May 16, 2002
Archbishop Patrick Flores, in a rare news conference Wednesday, told reporters he had no knowledge or suspicion that Father Michael Kenny had sexual relationships with any of his parishioners until one of them filed a complaint in 2000.
Flores has said that before. But he repeated the comment in response to TV news reports this week that he was warned in letters in 1986 of problems involving Kenny.
The reports were based on videotaped excerpts of Flores' five-hour deposition last month in a lawsuit filed by Julia Phelps, a former parishioner, alleging that Kenny forced himself on her sexually in an incident at her home.
The tapes were provided to news organizations by Houston attorney J. Douglas Sutter, who represents Phelps and another complainant in a separate lawsuit, Jerrilynn Marie White.
Kenny has testified that he had relationships that lasted for years with both women and at least two others, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.
Phelps has said Kenny forced her to have sex with him in front of her young sons on one occasion when she was not fully conscious because she was taking medication.
Kenny admitted having sex with Phelps one time in 1990, but testified her children were not present. He also admitted having a son by another woman in 1982, whom he baptized at Resurrection Parish.
Flores didn't mention the 1986 letters Wednesday, but in his deposition, he said he hadn't read them and that if he had, he wouldn't have interpreted them as warning of sexual misconduct.
"That could be an individual interpretation, but I don't see it as that," he testified.
The archdiocese's lawyer, Tom Drought, said the letters were vague and didn't suggest sexual misconduct.
"If the deposition is read in its entirety, it is perfectly clear (Flores) did not know until July 2000. It is possible that excerpts can suggest otherwise - excerpts can suggest almost anything - but the fact is he did not know until July 2000," Drought said.
The letters were from a secretary and a deacon at Resurrection of the Lord Parish, where Kenny was pastor. They referred to Kenny having "a crisis of the heart" and "human faults."
"Even though Archbishop Flores admits that these statements could very well refer to sexual faults, he did nothing to investigate the matter or to ask the two writers of these letters what they meant and what problems Father Kenny was suffering from," Sutter wrote in a complaint to Rome about Flores.
Kenny testified he did not inform Flores of his sexual relationships until 2000. He also said that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Flanagan, Kenny's pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish from 1973 to 1980, knew nothing about his sexual activities.
In his statement Wednesday, Flores said he "did not know or have reason to suspect that Father Michael Kenny had a sexual relationship, or a relationship of any kind, with either of the two women" who are suing the archdiocese.
"The first information I received of the allegations was in the year 2000, when one of the women filed a claim against the archdiocese," he said.
Flores said he suspended Kenny immediately after substantiating White's complaint. He hasn't been allowed to function as a priest since then, but the archdiocese is still paying him a salary.
Sutter filed a complaint in March with the Catholic Church's highest court, the Roma Rota, asking that Flores and Flanagan both be removed from the clerical state for having done nothing to stop Kenny or to supervise him under canon law.
But canon law experts say the request is unlikely to be granted, because clerics can be removed only for certain crimes, and those don't include administrative actions.
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