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Support group for those abused by priests calls for reassignment of Lenexa priest

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Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 01, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A support group for those abused by priests is calling for the reassignment of a priest appointed last month to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann appointed Father John Pilcher to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in January.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church also has a school and daycare.

Concerns from parishioners and parents stem from a 2021 allegation against the priest involving sexual abuse of a minor.

The KBI and archdiocese found the allegation unsubstantiated. He was also never charged.

On Thursday, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP sent a letter to the archdiocese calling on Naumann to hold at least one joint open and public meeting.

The archdiocese said they have been transparent.

Former SNAP National Director David Clohessy questioned a recent decision by the archbishop when he appointed Pilcher to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa.

“Why take that risk?,” David Clohessy, former SNAP national director said.

Pilcher was previously at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Topeka. He introduced himself to his new parish in mid-January.

"Also, by way of introduction, I want to be totally transparent. If you Google my name, you will find that back in 2021 when I was pastor at Mater Dei, an allegation was brought up against me,” Pilcher said during mass on Jan. 13.

After the 2021 allegation involving the sexual abuse of a minor, the archdiocese said it immediately placed Pilcher on leave.

The Archdiocesan Independent Review Board also looked at the findings from the KBI and archdiocese. The board recommended Pilcher return to ministry.

The archdiocese also said Pilcher denied the allegation and cooperated with the investigation.

“If this was a thorough investigation, why won’t the archbishop explain it? He won’t even acknowledge if they met with the victim or not,” Clohessy said.

The KSHB 41 I-Team requested the investigative report from the archdiocese, but a spokeswoman declined saying "the investigative reports are confidential." 

The KBI could not answer questions about the priest.

“Fr. Pilcher was never guaranteed and should not be guaranteed a position running a parish with a school. Parents need to be guaranteed that there are no potentially dangerous men around that school before they send their kids to it,” Clohessy said.

After Pilcher's appointment to Holy Trinity, concerned parents reached out to the I-Team asking us to push for more transparency from the archdiocese. 

A week after Pilcher introduced himself, Naumann addressed the congregation from the pulpit.

“I would never assign a priest to Holy Trinity or any other parish that I believed posed a threat to the safety of our children. The archdiocese takes seriously all accusations of misconduct against clergy as well as other representatives of the church,” Naumann said during a mass on January 21.

Clohessy responded to the archbishop’s comments on Jan. 21.

“Those kinds of performances meant to reassure the flock very, very often intimidate and discourage and depress victims,” Clohessy said.

In a new statement to the I-Team, the archdiocese defended its transparency of the Pilcher investigation. 

“The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas takes all allegations of misconduct by church personnel very seriously and works to respond to survivors’ needs with urgency, respect, and compassion. The allegation made against Father John Pilcher in 2021 while he served at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Topeka, was investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Subsequently, the Archdiocese conducted its own investigation into the allegation, and the findings were then reviewed by the Archdiocesan Independent Review Board. The Archdiocesan Independent Review Board is made up of seasoned qualified professionals including mental health, education, law enforcement, business, and theology; one of whom is a survivor of clergy abuse, who was appointed for their expertise, education, and passion for this topic. The recommendation was that he return to full ministry. 

Throughout the investigation and up to the present day, the Archdiocese has been transparent about the allegation and the process and protocol that followed and has continued to issue public updates.”

Shawnee County's district attorney did not file charges against Pilcher. The I-Team has repeatedly reached out about why he made that decision, but we have not heard back.

As the I-Team has reported, this is the second person with an allegation of sexual abuse in their background hired by the archdiocese.