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Diocese of Wichita names 15 priests with ‘substantiated’ sexual abuse cases

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita has released the names of 15 priests with “substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Of the 15, nine had allegations that occurred in the diocese. The other six served in the diocese but have allegations in other dioceses.

On Thursday, Bishop Carl A. Kemme appeared in a seven-minute YouTube video embedded in a story on the diocese’s website. The story contains a link with the names of the priests, their birth and ordination dates, a chronology of their priesthood locations and status of priesthood.

Kemme said the names were substantiated after an independent review of 1,300 files by a non-Catholic Wichita-based lawyer, Stephen Robison.

These priests were named as having substantiated allegations against them within the Diocese of Wichita:

Paul Alderman: last served at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita from 1989 to 1990; ministry ended 1990; permanently removed from ministry

Robert Blanpied: last served at St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita from 1964 to 1969; ministry ended 1969; died 2003

Peter Duke: last served at Sacred Heart in Arkansas City from 1985 to 1987; ministry ended 1987; died 1990

Robert K. Larson: last served at St. Mary in Newton from 1983 to 1988; ministry ended 1988; died 2014

Charles O’Connor: last served at Our lady of Guadalupe in Wichita from 1991 to 1993; ministry ended 1993; permanently removed from ministry

Robert Schleiter: last served Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita from 1968 to 1969; ministry ended 1969; died 1995

Alonzo Smithhisler: last served Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita from 1989 to 1991; ministry ended 1991; permanently removed from ministry

Charles Walsh: last served St. John the Evangelist in El Dorado from 1983 to 1998; retired 1998; died 2008

William Wheeler: last served Immaculate Conception in Danville from 1977 to 1985; ministry ended 1985; died 1994

These priests spent time in the diocese but had substantiated allegations elsewhere:

Michael Baca: last served Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wichita in 1955; ministry ended 1955; died (year not provided)

John Haberthier: last served St. Patrick in Wichita from 1948 to 1950; ministry ended 1952; died 2009

Steven Muth: last served Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita from 1991 to 1993; ministry ended 1993; placed on administrative leave in 2018

Thomas O’Donohue: last served Holy Name in Winfield from 1911 to 1913; ministry ended 1913; died 1951

Arthur J. Van Speybroeck; last served St. John in Hamilton in 1943; retired 1943; died 1948

John E. Walsh: last served unknown from 1955 to 1958; died 2009

Robert Schleiter is listed in both groups.

Diocese Director of Communications Matthew Vainer said priests could have been permanently removed from ministry for a number of reasons. He didn’t know any of the specific reasons.

Larson was the only one charged, Vainer said. Larson pleaded guilty in 2001 in Harvey County District Court to abusing three altar boys and a 19-year-old man while he was pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton in the mid-1980s. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

We will continue to maintain this list on our website going forward,” Vainer said.

Vainer said the published list aligns with the diocese’s policy, which includes training on prevention of child abuse. It’s a similar policy across dioceses after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. That came after a series in The Boston Globe newspaper showed decades of cover-up of child abuse in the Catholic Church.

“First and foremost, to the survivor victims and to their families, I express my most sincere and deepest apologies for the suffering you may have experienced due to these criminal, sinful and horrific acts by priests of this diocese,” Kemme said. “I acknowledge that trust in our priests and their bishops was severely damaged and in some cases destroyed completely.”

Kemme went on to encourage victims who may not have come forward to contact law enforcement, district attorneys or the victim assistance coordinator for the diocese.

Kemme said the findings of the investigation would soon be handed over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. In February, at the request of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the KBI announced it would assign six special agents to investigate reports of sexual abuse at four Catholic dioceses in Kansas.

In a July update, the KBI said it received 119 reports from sexual abuse victims against clergy members.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the story said six of the priests were not priests in the diocese. The six were priests in the diocese but the allegations against them stem from their priesthood in another diocese. Additionally, the version gave an incorrect date for a Pennsylvania grand jury report.

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