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NEW YORK – A recent Kansas Bureau of Investigation report on Catholic clergy child sex abuse in the state’s four dioceses yielded 30 affidavits involving 14 clergymen that were distributed to prosecutors for possible indictments, though so far no charges have been filed.
The KBI report, released Jan. 6, is the result of a four-year investigation. There were a total of 125 criminal cases initiated as a result of the investigation, which identified 188 clergy members suspected of committing various criminal acts including aggravated criminal sodomy, rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual battery.
KBI spoke to 137 victims of Catholic clergy child sex abuse in Kansas.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said in a statement that the trauma experienced by the clergy sex abuse victims is clear from the report.
“You cannot read this report without your heart breaking,” Naumann said.
Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt directed KBI to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy in Kansas in Nov. 2018 at the request of Naumann. The archbishop’s request followed an independent law firm’s review of available church files of the archdiocese, where they identified 15 clergy members who warranted further investigation.
There are four Kansas dioceses: the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Dioceses of Salina, Dodge City, and Wichita. The report states that from the start each bishop “expressed interest in cooperating with the KBI investigation.”
In a statement, the Diocese of Salina apologies on behalf of all four Kansas bishops.
“As the community processes the findings in this report, Bishop Gerald Vincke and the bishops across the state of Kansas offer their deepest apologies to the victims, their families, the faithful of the church, and our Kansas Catholic Community at large,” the Diocese of Salina said.
On the 30 affidavits distributed, the report notes that the primary reason no prosecutor has filed charges is the statute of limitations had expired or the priest was no longer living.
Some of the specific findings of the investigation include:
- Many of the victims, or the priests, were deceased.
- Church officials failed to report incidents to law enforcement or child protection services.
- Most of the investigations conducted by the dioceses into past allegations of sexual abuse were “inconsistent and inadequate.”
- Each of the dioceses frequently failed to follow its own policies and procedures relating to allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
- Church officials frequently attempted to avoid scandal and failed to hold offenders accountable.
The KBI report also mentions that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) remains under investigation in Kansas for criminal allegations of sexual abuse by associated clergy members.
SSPX is a breakaway traditionalist group that operates all over the world. It is unaffiliated with specific dioceses, including the four in Kansas. One branch is located in St. Mary’s, Kansas.
SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970. After he and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without permission of St. John Paul II in 1988, the bishops involved were excommunicated. The late Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the surviving bishops in 2009, though he maintained that the society didn’t have canonical status in the Church and its ministers could not legitimately exercise ministry.
In 2015, Pope Francis allowed the priests in the society to hear confession, but that’s as far as things have gotten in the prospects of the group returning to full communion with the church.
There is no set timetable for when the KBI investigation into the group will be completed. Without providing numbers, the report indicates KBI has already completed the review of a number of documents and investigated allegations related to SSPX.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg