Vatican Defrocks Three Local Priests Accused of Sex Abuse

By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 29, 2005

* Archdiocesan spokesman says Rome is reviewing more local cases of abusive priests, including the Rev. Bryan Kuchar.

Archbishop Raymond Burke said Friday that three St. Louis priests had been laicized, or defrocked, by the Vatican.

Burke had asked Pope John Paul II to return Michael McGrath, Donald Straub and Robert Yim to "the lay state," according to a statement issued by the archdiocese, because "all three had credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them."

McGrath, 59, was ordained in 1975 and removed from ministry in 1997. In the Catholic church, men who have been ordained remain priests for life -- even if they resign the priesthood -- unless the Vatican takes the drastic step of laicization.

Seventeen people have accused McGrath of sexual abuse. Reached through his attorney, McGrath said he had no comment. He lives in Richmond Heights and has worked as a bus driver in the past.

Barbara and Allen Klump's 30-year-old son, Christopher, killed himself in 2003, and his parents blame McGrath. They say he abused Christopher. Their other son, Ronald, sued McGrath in 2003, also alleging abuse by the priest.

Told Friday that McGrath had been laicized, Barbara Klump said the news was "wonderful."

"To call these people who preyed on our children priests is an atrocity," she said. "To hear he's been kicked out of the church is wonderful."

Straub, 55, also was ordained in 1975 and was removed from ministry in 1986. He has been accused of abusing minors in the 1970s and '80s and is alleged to have molested children even after undergoing treatment for earlier abuse, and after being reassigned to other parishes upon his release from treatment. Straub could not be reached for comment.

Three men accused Yim, 56, of abuse while he was a priest in the archdiocese from 1974, when he was ordained, until 1995. In 1990, then-Archbishop John L. May removed Yim from day-to-day parish ministry and made him a chaplain for cardiac patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. In 1995, he left the priesthood but was not laicized by the Vatican. He later became a minister in the United Church of Christ but was suspended from that denomination in 2003. Yim's attorney did not return phone calls for comment.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that through laicizations the Vatican acknowledged that abuse occurred. He said that admission would be helpful for the priests' victims.

"I hope it provides a bit of comfort for dozens of people who those predators have hurt," he said. "But defrocking is not a panacea. If there's anything we've learned over the past three years it's that a change of location and job title doesn't cure a serial child molester."

In the archdiocese's statement, Burke said he "expresses his deepest regrets to all who have been harmed by these priests and to anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy," and urged others abused by a member of the clergy to contact the archdiocese or civil authorities.

The last time a priest from the archdiocese was defrocked was in August, 2002, when Joseph D. Ross was laicized. Ross had pleaded guilty in 1988 of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy during confession at Christ the King Church in University City. The archdiocese said that before this week, Ross was the first and only St. Louis priest to be laicized for sexual abuse of a minor.

Jamie Allman, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the Vatican was reviewing more cases of abusive priests from the archdiocese but would not say how many or provide names. He did, however, confirm that one of those was the Rev. Bryan Kuchar. He described that case as pending. Kuchar, who is fighting the laicization process, is serving three years in the St. Louis County jail after a jury found him guilty last year of three counts of statutory sodomy for molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1995.

The Vatican has been active lately in deciding the fates of American priests. Earlier this week, the Diocese of Rockville Center said the pope had laicized eight priests on Long Island in New York. Another was laicized this week in Louisville, Ky. Last week, the Vatican handed down decisions about the laicization of several priests in Iowa.

One such decision was to delay the possible laicization of the Rev. William Wiebler, who will undergo a church trial to assess whether he should be defrocked. Wiebler is an Iowan who was sent to one of two Missouri centers that treat priests who have sexually abused minors. He walked away from the facility last year and now lives in University City near two schools.


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