KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Promises are made to be kept. That’s why a group of 44 abuse victims are taking the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn back to court.
In 2008, 47 sexual abuse victims settled with the diocese for ten million dollars and a list of 19 non-monetary commitments. Now, 44 of those same victims are speaking out again.
On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Court to ask for an arbitrator to enforce the commitments. According to the group of plaintiffs, the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn have not held themselves accountable to at least six of the commitments.
The outreach director of SNAP, Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, named several examples at a press conference in Midtown Kansas City on Thursday.
Barbara Dorris said, "They promised that they would promptly report child sex abuse to law enforcement. That certainly was not the case in Father Shawn Ratigan or in Father Michael Tierney."
Abuse victim Robert Bates attributes the rising number of victims to the lack of action by the diocese, “You wouldn't have had a Father Ratigan if Bishop Finn would have reported him immediately.”
You may remember, police investigations uncovered that Bishop Robert Finn and his leadership team had knowledge of questionable pictures on Shawn Ratigan's computer for almost six months before the images were handed over to police.
That’s one point that Attorney Rebecca Randles plans to drive home with the arbitrator.
She explained, “The case laws pretty clear that if you have a contract and it induces someone to act that it has to be enforced.”
Randles is referring to the retribution given to the victims in the 2008 case. The group chose to take the minimal amount of money from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph in exchange for the list of 19 non-monetary commitments.
Now an arbitrator will decide how to enforce the contractual agreement between the 47 victims and the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.
Abuse victim Teresa White encouraged others to take up the fight too, “Do what you can in your individual lives to pressure the church to do what is right.”
Dorris added, “In no other circumstance that we can think of can officials chose whether or not to honor promises, to ignore court agreements, binding contracts.”
The Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph responded in a statement:
Through media representatives, the diocese has learned that the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) intends to promote the filing of a “breach of contract” lawsuit alleging that the diocese did not abide by a 2008 group settlement with 47 victims of clerical sexual abuse.
While SNAP was not a party to those mediations, the diocese has been in periodic contact since 2008 with various individuals who were parties to the agreement. As recently as June 2011 the diocese provided those individuals and the community with a comprehensive accounting of all actions to that date. (See full text below).
With the announcement of Bishop Finn’s Five-Point Plan on June 9, 2011, the diocese has implemented changes and reforms that guide its response to reports of child sexual abuse. In addition to commissioning and making public an independent investigation completed by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, the diocese has put in place an unequivocal process to respond to any report of misconduct or inappropriate behavior by clergy, employees or volunteers. Appointed in July 2011, an Ombudsman receives confidential reports, ensures that law enforcement is notified, conducts an investigation, and presents findings to the Independent Review Board. The Independent Review Board makes recommendations to Bishop Finn about the continued suitability for ministry or employment of any person accused of wrongful conduct. The Ombudsman is available at (816) 812-2500, or JeniferValenti@att.net.
Full Text of the Community Update as of June 20, 2011)
Concerning the Non-Monetary Agreements Made in Connection with the 2008 Global Settlement
1. Through a press statement to the secular media and through publication in The Catholic Key, the Diocese will continue to publicly acknowledge the wrongfulness of sexual abuse by the perpetrators and will acknowledge that its own response to reports of sexual abuse has, in the past, been wrong.
At a news meeting on August 20, 2008, Bishop Robert Finn addressed the community and announced the resolution of 47 civil lawsuits/claims in a group settlement. The diocese continues to carry Bishop Finn’s remarks to media representatives on its website. Companion news reports published by The Catholic Key, on August 29, 2008 remain available in the online archives for the diocesan newspaper.
Neither Bishop Finn nor any diocesan official has ever made statements to the contrary. Recently, Bishop Finn made a series of public acknowledgments responding to concerns raised with Father Shawn Ratigan. Those statements also are available on the website.
The Diocese will continue its long-standing offer to provide counseling to all victims of sexual abuse and their immediate family members, at the expense of the Diocese. The plaintiffs collectively shall appoint an individual of their choice to act as an intermediary between plaintiffs and the Diocese in order to facilitate the provision of independent therapy for any plaintiff for a maximum of twenty-four (24) sessions.
The diocese has had a long-standing policy of offering psychological counseling to any person making a report of sexual abuse. Counseling services also are available to family members of victims. Individuals wishing to initiate counseling should contact the Victims’ Advocate, Leslie Guillot. The diocese must have the name and credentials of the counselor, and will initially authorize up to 24 individual therapy sessions. The diocese can provide the individual with a list of approved counselors, or the individual may provide the diocese with the name of a counselor of his / her choosing.
Counseling Services Provided – July 1, 2008 – June 15, 2011
Amount Number of Sessions
Individuals 34 $82,562 547
3. The Diocese will not provide a reference or recommendation for purposes of prospective employment with respect to any priest, nun, deacon, lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse. If the Diocese receives a request for such a reference or recommendation, the Diocese will respond that it will not provide such a reference or recommendation, except in the case where a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse has been filed, in which case the Diocese will inform the prospective employer of that fact.
Personnel files of credibly accused clergy or lay employees include the following instruction: “Do not furnish reference or recommendation.” This instruction was placed in personnel files of the priests who were named in claims described in the 2008 group Settlement Agreement.
Since August 2008, this statement has been placed into priest personnel files for Shawn Ratigan and Michael Tierney. Should the diocese receive a reference request, this information will guide diocesan response.
4. The Diocese will provide a letter advising state licensed professional counseling boards that Thomas Reardon has been the subject of lawsuits charging him with sexual abuse and other misconduct involving minors, and that the Diocese is therefore unable to provide a favorable reference or recommendation in connection with any application by Reardon for a license to perform counseling services.
The diocese mailed letters to all 50 states and the District of Columbia advising professional licensure boards that Thomas Reardon has been the subject of civil lawsuits charging him with sexual misconduct with minors. The diocese provided counsel for the plaintiffs in the 2008 settlement with a copy of this letter on September 12, 2008.
5. The Diocese acknowledges that Father Thomas O’Brien is performing no public ministry, including the public administration of sacraments.
In 2002, Bishop Raymond J. Boland advised Msgr. O’Brien that he could neither perform public ministry nor represent himself as a member of the clergy. In September 2008, the diocese revisited these restrictions with Msgr. O’Brien. Additionally, the diocese requested a letter from Msgr. O’Brien acknowledging that he understood his restricted status. Msgr. O’Brien furnished said letter on September 30, 2008.
6. The Diocese will publish a pastoral statement that rites or sacraments performed or administered by priests or deacons are not diminished, flawed or tainted because the priest or deacon has been accused of misconduct.
I n a column published in The Catholic Key on September 5, 2008, Bishop Finn wrote:
“In the context of these recent weeks, I was asked to emphasize how the Sacramental actions of priests whose moral failures have become more clearly seen, are nonetheless preserved and guaranteed in the Church. . . .What we believe and teach in this regard is set out powerfully in our teaching. The validity of the sacraments is unquestioned, even despite the unworthiness of human and sinful ministers.”
See Jesus’ Priestly Power is not Nullified, Even by Unworthy Minister, carried in The Catholic Key.
7. The Bishop of the Diocese will send a letter to any plaintiff or member of plaintiff’s family who requests such a letter, apologizing for the harm caused by the abuse and acknowledging that the plaintiff was not a fault for the abuse.
Legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the 2008 settlement made direct contact with each victim to ascertain his or her desire for a letter of apology from Bishop Finn. At this time, Bishop Finn has written 118 letters of apology.
8. The Diocese and its representatives shall not refer to plaintiffs or other tort claimants and their claims as “alleged” victims, “alleged” survivors, or “alleged” claims.
The diocese has complied and will continue to comply with
this commitment. See, for example, the statement announcing the resolution of the civil lawsuits issued by Bishop Robert Finn on August 20, 2008.
9. The Diocese intends to initiate laicization procedures for former priests Thomas Reardon, Hugh Monahan and Stephen Wise and will consult with canon lawyers regarding these procedures.
In accordance with regulations codified in Normae de Graviorivus Delictis, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002), and the Revised Dallas Norms (2005), canon lawyers have initiated the petitions for laicization of Hugh Monaghan, Thomas Reardon and Stephen Wise. Each case will be adjudicated through the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
10. The Diocese will continue to offer and implement a Victims’ Advocacy Program consistent with Virtus ™ guidelines, in order to maintain safe, strong communities for children and vulnerable adults.
The diocese provides a Victims’ Advocate to offer confidential support to any person who makes a report of sexual abuse. Appointed in 2004, Leslie Guillot, M.A., currently serves in this capacity. Upon request, she arranges a personal meeting with the Bishop or his representative and provides support and resources for healing. Guillot maintains an office separate from the diocese, and she can be reached at (816) 361-2666.
The Victims’ Advocate is responsible to the Independent Review Board. The Advocate assists the Diocesan Response Team and Independent Review Board in ways that help to bring about healing for the person making the report, the accused, and the community affected by the claim. The Advocate is available to meet with persons making reports to the diocese and assists by:
• listening and offering one-on-one compassionate support
• discussing options and suggesting professional resources
• meeting with and accompanying
• the individual to his or her meeting with members of the Diocesan Response Team
• serving as an ex officio member of the Independent Review Board
In addition to offering counseling services, the Victims’ Advocate always advises the person that the Response Team is available to meet, and that the person is free to contact law enforcement, the media or an advocacy group of his or her choice.
Since January 2008, the Victims’ Advocate Program has received no requests for support or services in connection with a claim of sexual misconduct involving a minor. During this time period, the program has provided the following supports and services to adults within the diocese:
-spoke with six (6) parishioners about various concerns
-reviewed written material submitted of one (1) victim
-met with the parents of a victim (1) and continued support by telephone
-met with one (1) victim and spouse
-consulted with one (1) victim concerning appropriate therapists
-provided two (2) parishes with topical resources
-took calls from parishioners about various concerns
-met with one (1) person
-spoke three or four times with parent of one (1) victim
-consulted with one (1) school community member and the Safe Environment Coordinator
-spoke two times with one (1) victim
-assisted the Vicar General with certification forms for therapies for victims
-provided an updated professional resource list to the diocese
-spoke with three (3) victims
-referred one (1) victim to qualified counselors in another city
-developed a list of therapists for a pastoral minister
-responded to a request for information concerning adult-on-adult abuse, including several - telephone calls and one (1) meeting with the person making the request
-consulted with pastoral minister about parishioner with gender identity issues, provided resources and referral
-met with (1) elderly adult parishioner to discuss issues related to childhood sibling abuse
-responded to a request for counseling from the brother of a sexual abuse victim, counseling approved
-discussed Shawn Ratigan with a parent, offered informational resources and verified that she had contacted law enforcement
-responded to a person who claimed abuse in another diocese, the individual requested a face-to-face meeting, the Advocate agreed, but the individual did not follow-through
-responded to a parent from St. Patrick School, who questioned diocesan compliance with reporting obligations
11. The name and contact information of the Diocesan Victims’ Advocate will be published on the Diocese’s Website and will be included in parish bulletins along with the names of parish staff.
The diocese has posted contact information for the Victim’s Advocate on its website at:
In a communication dated September 22, 2008, the Diocese instructed all parishes to publish the name and telephone number for the Victims’ Advocate in parish bulletins.
The diocese requested that all parishes recertify compliance with this Commitment
by June 18, 2011. As of the date of this Update, 98 of 98 parishes and missions have recertified.
12. The Missouri Abuse Hotline phone number shall be prominently posted in every parish school, office and workplace.
The diocese created placards with the telephone numbers of the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline and the Diocesan Victims’ Advocate and distributed these placards to each parish and school on November 6, 2008. The diocese requested that all parishes and schools recertify compliance with this Commitment by June 18, 2011. As of the date of this Update, 98 of 98 parishes and missions and 38 of 38 diocesan schools and early education centers have re-certified.
13. The Diocese shall prominently display in each diocesan school a placard stating: “The Abuse of the Spiritual, Emotional and Moral Development of the Young Men and Women of [name of school] shall not be tolerated.” The placard will include the telephone numbers of the Missouri Abuse Hotline, the local police department, and the Diocesan Victims’ Advocate.
The diocese created placards bearing this message and the telephone numbers of the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline, local law enforcement, and the Diocesan Victims’ Advocate. Principals and directors received site-specific placards on October 9, 2008.
The diocese requested that all diocesan schools re-certify compliance with this Commitment by June 18, 2011. As of the date of this Update, 38 of 38 diocesan schools and early education centers have re-certified.
14. The Diocese will continue to follow mandatory state reporting requirements and Virtus ™ guidelines in reporting the suspected sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement and child protection authorities. At the request of the victim or other party reporting childhood sexual abuse to the Diocese, the Diocese will report such abuse to law enforcement and child protection authorities regardless of the age of the victim at the time the report is made.
Effective December 31, 2008, the diocese revised its Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct to reflect the commitment by the diocese, at the request of the victim or other party who reports to the diocese a claim of childhood sexual abuse or misconduct, to report the abuse to law enforcement and to child protection authorities -- regardless of the age of the victim at the time the report is made to the diocese.
15. The Diocese will continue to require its priests, administrators, teachers, staff, coaches, volunteers and students to complete the Virtus ™ “Protecting God’s Children” training, or similar training performed and / or similar training performed and / or developed by outside consultants, for the prevention of sexual abuse and harassment.
Since 2002, all priests, deacons, seminarians, principals, directors of early childhood education, teachers, school staff, coaches, youth ministers, parish school of religion catechists, and volunteers who interact with children have been required to participate in a three-hour Virtus ™ training program called Protecting God’s Children. This program teaches the warning signs of sexual abuse and offers strategies for taking action when abuse is suspected. Employees of the diocese also take part in ongoing safe environment continuing education. As of June 15, 2011 more than 20,500 persons had participated in the Virtus ™ training.
In September 2006, the diocese mandated sequential personal-safety curricula for all Catholic schools, religious education and youth programs. These programs replaced curricula screened and selected by local parishes and schools. In the 2009-10 school year, 16,009 children and youth participated in developmentally appropriate safe environment training in parish and school programs. The 2010-11 audit of participation is in progress.
16. On our before December 31, 2008, the Diocese will adopt a whistle-blower policy providing that the Diocese shall take no retaliatory action against any person who reports in good faith the suspected sexual abuse of a minor by a priest, employee or other representative of the Diocese.
Effective December 31, 2008, the diocese revised its Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct to include Article 6, Assurance of Non-Retaliation, which prohibits retaliation in any form against any person who in good faith reports sexual abuse or misconduct by a priest, employee or other representative of the diocese, or who participates in an investigation of such a report.
Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct - Article 6.
17. The Diocese will not enforce the confidentiality provisions of any prior agreement with a sexual abuse claimant who now or in the future desires to make his / her claim public.
In March 2002, the diocese distributed a public statement through the media that released any person who had been bound by a provision of confidentiality in a prior settlement agreement. Since then, the diocese has made no attempt to
enforce any such confidentiality provision.
18. The Diocese has enacted policies concerning sexual assault, misconduct and harassment including procedural steps that will be followed once reports are made and to whom reports are to be made. The Diocese agrees to provide copies of those policies to counsel for the claimants.
The diocese has provided copies of these policies, including the revised Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct, to counsel for the plaintiffs who entered into the 2008 Settlement Agreement.
Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct
Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment
19. The victims have requested that the Bishop of the Diocese personally visit any parish where sexual abuse of minors occurred. The victims have further requested that at these meetings the Bishop publicly identify the perpetrators, encourage other victims to report the abuse, provide an opportunity for discussion with the audience, and invite victims or their families to speak. The Bishop has stated that he will consider this or some other process that will achieve the same goal.
Consistent with goals of demonstrating accountability, creating atmospheres for healing and reconciliation with affected communities, the Bishop has and continues to engage the community. In May and June, 2011, Bishop Finn visited: St. Patrick Parish, in Kansas City; St. Thomas More Parish, in Kansas City; Christ the King Parish, in Kansas City; Holy Spirit Parish, in Lee’s Summit; and Co-Cathedral Parish, in St. Joseph. At Co-Cathedral Parish, parishioners and school parents from throughout the St. Joseph area and Easton, Missouri were invited to attend.
In 2008, in the presence of the plaintiffs’ counsel, the Bishop and/or members of his leadership team made themselves available to hear the accounts of abuse from those plaintiffs and to offer a personal apology. This provided an opportunity for the victims to be heard and, at the same time, respected the anonymity most of the victims desired.
Opportunities for counseling (see Commitment 2 above) provide a professional and therapeutic setting for healing and promote closure, healing and reconciliation.
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