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Two priests on list of 153 accused abusers had ties to a Wichita Catholic high school

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Two Catholic priests with ties to Wichita were credibly accused of sexual abuse, according to a list made public by the church on Friday.

An internal investigation by two Roman Catholic Jesuit provinces that cover nearly half the U.S. yielded a list of 153 priests and other church leaders “against whom a credible claim of sexual abuse of a minor or a vulnerable adult has been made.”

The release cautioned that “inclusion on this list does not imply that the allegations are true and correct or that the accused individual has been found guilty of a crime or liable for civil claims.”

None of the priests named are still active in ministry, according to a statement from the provinces. Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, which covers 13 states — including Kansas — along with Puerto Rico and Belize, released the names of 42 men who had connections to the church dating back to 1955. Four of those 42 are still members of the church but live in supervised housing.

The priests who spent time in Wichita were both accused of committing sexual abuse in the 1970s. The list does not say if the accusations originate from their time in Wichita.

George M. Pieper, who died in 1998 at the age of 81, worked at Kapaun High School for an unspecified time period.

Pieper was ordained in 1948 and his “estimated timeframe of abuse” was the 1970s. After his time at Kapaun, he was reassigned to St. Louis University High School. He also held assignments at high schools in Wisconsin and South Dakota and other assignments in St. Louis.

The province did not know about the allegations against him until after he was dead, the list says.

John W. Hough, 79, also worked at Kapaun High School for an unspecified time period. After his time at Kapaun, he too was reassigned to St. Louis University High School, the list says.

Hough had left the priesthood by the time allegations surfaced, the list says.

Hough left the priesthood in 1977. According to an April 1, 1965 story in The Wichita Beacon, Hough was an instructor at Kapaun as early as 1965 and had just started coaching tennis there that spring.

Officials from Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic School were not immediately available for comment.

The Jesuits are a Catholic order that includes more than 16,000 men worldwide. Jesuits also operate several high schools and universities, including St. Louis University and Marquette University.

Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and many also take a vow of allegiance to the Pope.

The Jesuits have previously settled lawsuits across the country, including a $166 million settlement involving about 500 abuse claims in Oregon in 2011, which was one of the largest settlements involving clergy abuse allegations.

U.S. Central and Southern Provincial Ronald Mercier, who heads the U.S. Central and Southern Province, said the “storm” facing the Catholic church must be confronted with transparency.

“Words cannot possibly suffice to express our sorrow and shame for what occurred, our promise of prayers for healing, and our commitment to work with them,” Mercier said in a statement. “Caring for these survivors — and preventing any such future events — must be our focus as we move forward.”

Contributing: the Associated Press

Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and cswaim@wichitaeagle.com.


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