Crime & Courts

KBI investigating clergy sex abuse cases in Kansas, asks victims to come forward

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into reports of clergy sexual abuse in the four Catholic dioceses in Kansas and is asking all victims to report abuse to the agency, the KBI announced Tuesday.

“On Nov. 15, 2018, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt requested that the KBI investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in Kansas,” the agency said in a news release.

“Since then, the KBI has convened an internal task force of six special agents who will conduct a thorough investigation into abuse reports received from the public, including accounts from anyone who has been victimized by members of the clergy, including church employees, church volunteers, or any others in positions of authority within the church, and complete a review of church documents.”

The task force will work with prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies to determine if any sexual abuse cases should be prosecuted, the KBI said.

The agency asks anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse committed by a clergy member or knows someone who has been abused to contact the KBI by calling 1-800-KS-CRIME or by sending an email to:

“The KBI asks victims to report all incidents of abuse, no matter how long ago they occurred, and even if they were previously reported to law enforcement, or the church,” the KBI said.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, the state’s largest diocese, said it is cooperating with the investigation.

“The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has been working with the Attorney General’s office on the issue of clerical sexual abuse of minors since reaching out to it in August,” the archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday. “It supports the investigation by the Attorney General and Kansas Bureau of Investigation and will continue to assist both agencies.”

Victims’ advocates said they were cautiously optimistic over the news of the investigation.

“The earlier pronouncements that the Kansas Attorney General has no authority over these matters has caused our clients to pause, fearing that this will be one more time in which their hopes for validation, closure and justice are dashed,” said Rebecca Randles, a Kansas City attorney who has represented hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims. “It is our profoundest hope that the KBI can bring credibility, accountability, transparency and justice to the darkest places in the Archdiocese, the Orders and wherever abuse has been hidden. We stand ready to assist if the KBI is truly interested in a thorough review.”

The KBI’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas released the names of 22 priests in its files who have had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them in the past 75 years.

In releasing the document, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said each name on the list “represents a grave human tragedy” and “a betrayal of trust and a violation of the innocent.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Photo.jpg
Submitted photo

The archdiocese’s list also included four additional priests who had allegations that were previously publicized but were not able to be substantiated, the archdiocese said. Naumann said none of those on the list was in current ministry in the archdiocese.

Of those 22 priests, 10 were a part of the archdiocese, the archdiocese said. Eleven of the 22 are deceased and seven have been laicized, or removed from the priesthood. None on the list is in current ministry in the archdiocese, Naumann said.

The list was compiled after a review of about 1,080 clergy files dating back more than 75 years, the archdiocese said. The review was conducted by the Chicago office of the Husch Blackwell law firm. A report based on the findings was provided to the Kansas attorney general, the archdiocese said.

Dioceses across the country in recent months have been releasing lists of priests who are deemed to have credible accusations against them. Pressure to disclose the names has been mounting since August, when a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report finding that church leaders had covered up sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over seven decades.

The four dioceses in Kansas are the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the dioceses of Wichita, Salina and Dodge City.

Last week, a victims’ advocate group said that the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas had failed to include six priests on its list of those credibly accused. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the allegations arose elsewhere but that the priests had worked at some point in or around Kansas City, Kan. The archdiocese said that the six priests “were not priests of the archdiocese” but acknowledged that some had served in parishes in the archdiocese.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office is investigating clergy sex abuse as well. In late August, then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced that his office was conducting a “thorough and robust investigation” of potential clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He said the office had full cooperation from St. Louis church officials, and he encouraged other dioceses in the state to allow similar investigations.

The state’s other dioceses, including Kansas City-St. Joseph, also pledged their cooperation.

Since then, the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau have released names of priests with substantiated allegations. The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has not released names, saying it continues “to actively cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation of Missouri dioceses.”

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Judy L. Thomas joined The Star in 1995 and is a member of the investigative team, focusing on watchdog journalism. Over three decades, the Kansas native has covered domestic terrorism, extremist groups and clergy sex abuse. Her stories on Kansas secrecy and religion have been nationally recognized.