Review Board Clears Priest of Abuse

By Diane Carroll
Kansas City Star (Kansas & Missouri)
November 27, 2002

A Prairie Village priest did not sexually abuse a minor, but he did have sexual relations with his accuser when his accuser was an adult, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas said Tuesday.

The Rev. William Haegelin, who has been on paid leave since Sept. 10, will not return to St. Ann Catholic Church, said the Rev. Charles McGlinn, the archdiocese's vicar general for personnel.

Archbishop James Keleher hopes Haegelin will return to priestly service in the archdiocese after a sabbatical that includes spiritual counseling and renewal, McGlinn said. The archdiocese oversees parishes in northeastern Kansas. Haegelin, 52, released a statement through his attorney, Glenn Bradford, saying he thought the archdiocese's review board had conducted a "full and fair investigation."

"I look forward to the coming time granted to me for spiritual renewal ... and ask for your continued prayers," the statement said.

Bradford said Haegelin had no further comment, other than to thank those who had supported him.

The archdiocese placed Haegelin on leave after receiving a two-page letter from a man who accused Haegelin of sexually abusing him in the 1980s, when the man was a minor. The archdiocese's Independent Review Board found no evidence of sexual abuse with a minor, McGlinn said, but recommended that Haegelin leave St. Ann permanently "because of the tense atmosphere and publicity of the last several months."

Keleher concurred with the board's findings. Parishioners were being notified in letters dated Monday.

McGlinn said he was trying to reach the accuser Tuesday to tell him of the outcome. The accuser asked to remain anonymous, and the archdiocese has honored that request. The man is in his 30s, McGlinn said, and lives in another state. The alleged abuse did not take place at St. Ann, he said.

McGlinn said in September that the archdiocese did not contact police, because the statue of limitations had passed and the accuser was not interested in getting law enforcement involved.

The accuser was found to be 18 years old or older - and therefore not a minor - when he and Haegelin had a sexual relationship, McGlinn said.

Haegelin violated his promise of priestly celibacy by engaging in the relationship, McGlinn said, but not any criminal or civil law, as far as the archdiocese knows.

The Independent Review Board is led by the Rev. Raymond Burger, a vice chancellor for the archdiocese and pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Eudora, Kan.

Members are active Catholics who are not employed by the archdiocese. They include a retired law enforcement agent who previously investigated child abuse cases, a housewife who is a mother, a psychologist, a retired Catholic Charities professional, a lawyer who specializes in child law and a retired lawyer.

McGlinn said the archdiocese had been criticized for placing Haegelin on leave so quickly after receiving the letter of accusation. McGlinn received the letter Sept. 6 and met with Keleher Sept. 8. By the next day, Haegelin had moved out of the rectory.

"We did know that it was not a frivolous allegation and we followed the charter in place at the time," he said, referring to the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" approved in June by U.S. bishops.

Now that the U.S. bishops have revised the charter to provide more protection for priests, the archdiocese will follow the new charter, McGlinn said.

What that means in this case, he said, is that the archdiocese would have spent more time investigating the accusation before placing Haegelin on leave.

"I think the archdiocese here has been straightforward," McGlinn said. "We've told the truth and done the right thing."

The archdiocese is offering counseling for the accuser, if he wants, and also for Haegelin.

McGlinn said he spoke with Haeglin on Monday and assumed that he wanted to return to his priestly duties.

"This whole thing has been a tremendous ordeal for him as it has been I might say for everyone who has been involved," McGlinn said. "Everybody has been hurt, and we just pray that the healing process will begin for everyone."

Haegelin began his career as a priest at St. Agnes in Roeland Park in 1976. He then served at Blessed Sacrament in Kansas City, Kan.; Christ the King in Kansas City, Kan.; St. Lawrence in Easton, Kan.; St. Joseph of the Valley near Leavenworth; and St. Casimir & Sacred Heart in Leavenworth.

He joined St. Ann in 1997.


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