Frequently asked questions, Diocese of Salina clergy abuse list
Q. What information are you releasing on this list?
A. This list contains the names of diocesan clergy members against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been substantiated.
Q. How do you define “sexual abuse of a minor”?
A. Sexual abuse of a minor includes sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a minor or other behavior by which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification. The term “sexual abuse of a minor” is not necessarily limited to the definitions of sexual abuse under civil or criminal law. The use, creation or possession of child pornographic images constitutes sexual abuse of a minor. For the purpose of diocesan policies, a minor is any person below the age of 18 years. In addition, a person who habitually has the imperfect use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor — referred to as a “vulnerable adult” (see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Normae de Gravioribus Delictis, Article 6, § 1, 1°. Promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, May 21, 2010).
Q. What are the criteria for inclusion on the list?
A. Clergy members’ names are included on this list if there was a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them. Their inclusion does not necessarily mean they were found guilty of a crime or are liable for civil claims. Many of the allegations received by the diocese are from decades ago and were reported many years after the alleged abuse, sometimes after the death of the accused.
Q. What do you mean by a substantiated allegation?
A. When a complaint is received, the diocese starts with the presumption that the allegation is being brought forward in good faith, and therefore thoroughly investigates all allegations. An allegation is considered “substantiated” when it is corroborated with witness statements, documents, emails, photos, texts, or by another source, such as law enforcement. If the accused member of the clergy admits to the allegation, the accusation is substantiated. Allegations of abuse occurring significantly in the past, even if the accused is deceased, can also be substantiated when there is sufficient corroborative evidence that supports the veracity of the allegation.
No matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred, every effort is made to determine if the allegation can be substantiated.
Q. How many clergy files were reviewed, what time period did they cover and how many clergy with substantiated allegations were diocesan priests of the Diocese of Salina?
A. The Diocese of Concordia, now the Diocese of Salina, was established on Aug. 2, 1887. During that time, more than 600 priests have served in the diocese, including both diocesan and religious clergy. Of the more than 300 diocesan clergy files, there were 63 misconduct files; all misconduct files were reviewed. Of those 63 files, 14 files contained substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
Q. What percentage of all diocesan clergy had a substantiated allegation?
A. 4.67 percent
Q. What happens to an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy once it is received?
A. The diocese initiates an investigation into all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy. If the allegation concerns a current act of sexual abuse, law enforcement is contacted immediately in accordance with Kansas state law and diocesan policy. Under these circumstances, the accused is immediately put on leave and the diocesan investigation may be suspended until civil law enforcement has completed its investigation. The diocese fully cooperates in all criminal investigations conducted by civil authorities and will conduct its own investigation when it is certain that it will not interfere with any civil investigation being conducted. Even if the civil authorities determine not to pursue an investigation, the diocese will conduct its own investigation.
Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor are also communicated to the Diocesan Lay Review Board (LRB) in accordance with the Diocesan Safe Environment Policy. The diocese utilizes two investigators to perform internal investigations of allegations of sexual abuse. These investigators have extensive law enforcement and investigative backgrounds from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The investigator’s reports are presented to the LRB to inform their deliberations and provide the known facts on which to base a recommendation.
The LRB’s members include mental and medical health professionals, social service providers, civil and canon law professionals, law enforcement officials and two priests.
The LRB is not an investigative body, but it is presented with the results of the investigation conducted by the investigators. Following its review of the case, the LRB submits its findings and recommendations to the bishop. The LRB makes recommendations with respect to all aspects of the case, including, when applicable, recommendations concerning the accused cleric’s suitability for continued ministry.
If the allegation is not able to be substantiated, consistent with the recommendation of the LRB, the cleric may be returned to active ministry.
Q. Is this list complete?
A. This is a complete and accurate representation of all substantiated allegations against diocesan priests received by the diocese which involve the sexual abuse of a minor. They have each been substantiated by the LRB based on the information currently available in the diocesan files.
The list is based on the extensive file review conducted by attorney Courtney Boehm of the independent law firm of Cottonwood Law, LLC. The diocese has received some allegations of abuse occurring significantly in the past that could not be substantiated due to the lack of specificity regarding the allegation and/or corroborating information contained in diocesan files. These unsubstantiated allegations of past abuse do not pertain to anyone currently serving in priestly ministry.
If new allegations are made and substantiated by the LRB, the names of the diocesan clergy involved will be published in The Register and added to this list, which will be maintained on the diocesan website.
Q. Why was Cottonwood Law chosen to review the files?
A. Cottonwood Law, out of Hillsboro and specifically attorney Courtney Boehm, was chosen for her expertise in criminal law investigations, and that neither her nor Cottonwood Law have a direct connection with the Diocese of Salina. At the time of the audit, Boehm was the Marion County Attorney and has since been appointed a district court judge in the 8th Judicial District which consists of Dickinson, Geary, Marion and Morris counties.
Q. Why were some of these names not made public before now so that criminal charges could be made?
A. Many of these names have been made public previously. But some of these allegations were reported decades after the alleged abuse — in some cases, when the accused was deceased. In other instances, the victim requested that the matter not be publicized. The publication of this list, therefore, encompassing more than 100 years of records, is an effort to make all substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors — even historical ones — public in the same way the diocese has made current ones.
Q. Why are you releasing this list now?
A. In light of the confusion and concern caused by the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the Theodore McCarrick scandal this past summer, there has been a call for greater transparency on the part of the Church regarding not just present allegations, but historical allegations as well. The diocese is releasing this list as part of that effort toward greater transparency.
Q. Are any of the men on this list still in active ministry?
A. No cleric with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is permitted to exercise any form of public ministry.
Q. What is the diocese doing to prevent sexual abuse within the Church?
A. The Diocesan Safe Environment Program has three components. First, all Church clergy, seminarians, employees and volunteers are required to undergo criminal background checks. Second, persons who work with or around children are required to participate in ongoing child safety training and to keep it current. Children, too, are required to undergo personal safety training. Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) engages an independent firm that conducts an annual safe environment audit of the diocese. The most recent on-site audit was conducted in October 2018 by the independent firm StoneBridge Business Partners.
The diocese currently utilizes CMGConnect, an online training platform of the Catholic Mutual Group. CMGConnect presents the “Safe Haven — It’s Up to You” adult awareness training to Diocesan clergy, seminarians, employees and volunteers.
Since 2003, the diocese has instructed and completed background checks on more than 11,909 adults, and has passed every independent audit — both remote and on-site — conducted since the audits were instituted by the USCCB in 2004.
Q. What topics are included CMGConnect training?
A. CMGConnect training contains a required curriculum to provide ongoing training to all personnel regarding how to prevent, detect and respond to suspected sexual abuse of minors. This training is required for all clergy, seminarians, employees and volunteers. Additionally, there is special age-appropriate training provided to children. The platform also provides a multitude of optional training which includes bullying, online safety, social media safety, establishing appropriate boundaries and others. The CMGConnect platform is used by dioceses throughout the United States and Canada.
Q. What training do seminarians, or new employees, clergy and volunteers of the diocese receive regarding the Diocesan Safe Environment Program?
A. All adults — clergy, seminarians, employees, and volunteers — are required to undergo CMGConnect training. Aspiring seminarians must complete their CMGConnect training upon acceptance to seminary studies. All children in Catholic schools or religious education programs also undergo personal safety training annually.
Q. What steps has the diocese taken to ensure that those who apply for seminary are suitable for ministry?
A. The application process for admission to seminary studies for the diocese is extensive and includes lengthy interviews, multiple references, national criminal background checks, national sex offender registry checks and a psychological assessment that includes a psychosexual evaluation. Only men willing and able to live the chaste and celibate life that is required of them move forward in the application process. While in seminary, men are closely supervised by a formation team and routinely evaluated by the diocese.
Q. Everywhere in the news, sexual abuse by perpetrators in all walks of life is being reported. But it seems that some critics have singled out the Catholic Church for criticism on this matter. Why is that?
A. One instance of sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic clergy is too many. As the Church, we should hold ourselves and, in particular, our clergy to the highest standards. As a result of a series of articles in the Boston Globe on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, the Catholic Church has undergone intense scrutiny on this issue. This led in 2002 to the adoption by the Catholic Bishops of the United States of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The charter mandated policies and protocols regarding the Church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, as well as standards for safe environment programs aimed at preventing future abuse. We are grateful to victims and the secular media who called the Church to exercise greater accountability and transparency in this area.
Q. How did the diocese deal with 14 priests on this list?
A. Of the 14 priests listed: four priests died prior to the abuse being reported; three priests were laicized; three priests were removed from ministry, two of which were mandated to a life of prayer and penance by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome; one priest died during the investigation; one priest left the diocese for another; one priest continued to minister after the initial allegation was not properly investigated and died before subsequent reports were made; and one priest was removed from parish ministry, received five years of treatment and was only allowed to minister at the nursing home where he resided.
Q. How does the diocese ensure that priests from other dioceses, ministering here either short or long-term, are not a threat?
A. Every cleric from another diocese seeking to exercise ministry in the Diocese of Salina has to present from his bishop or provincial, confirmation that he is a priest or deacon in good standing.
Q. Does the diocese work with law enforcement to investigate reports of abuse?
A. All allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor are reported to the appropriate law enforcement and child protection agencies as required by Kansas state law and the Diocesan Safe Environment Policy. Moreover, the diocese fully cooperates with law enforcement in the process of ensuing investigations.
Q. What should I do if I know of a minor that is being abused or if I’ve been abused by a representative of the Diocese of Salina?
TO REPORT ABUSE
For the safety of children and the healing of those who have suffered abuse, the Diocese of Salina provides the following means of reporting abuse:
Reports will be responded to promptly by the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator. All reports are confidential with the exception of those involving the abuse of minors, which will be immediately reported by the diocese to the proper authorities, as required by Kansas State Law and Diocesan Policy.
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