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KC Diocese releases 1st report from ombudsman

By MARIA SUDEKUM

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The ombudsman appointed to investigate abuse allegations for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said in a report Thursday that sexual abuse claims have been substantiated against five people, though it didn’t indicate whether those individuals were clergy, employees or someone outside the diocese.

Diocese ombudsman Jenifer Valenti said in the report that her office received 79 allegations of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior, but nearly half involved people outside the diocese such as a school official calling to report the possible abuse of a student.

Since those cases were outside her jurisdiction, they were referred to civil authorities, administrative staff and caseworkers, according to the report. But the report didn’t clarify who those authorities or agencies were.

Valenti, a former Jackson County assistant prosecutor, didn’t return phone messages and an email Thursday seeking clarification on aspects of the report.

The two-page report covered allegations levied between July 2011 and June 2012. Overall, 20 cases involved accusations against clergy, 17 involved diocese employees, 11 involved family members, seven were about volunteers, five were about religious orders and 12 involved unknown people. Two allegations are still being investigated.

But the report contains scant information about the allegations beyond how many the office fielded, what type were received and how the office addressed the allegations. It said five people were removed from “Public Ministry, Employment or Volunteer Service” for substantiated claims — and three of those people were dead. No names or information about those five, including their roles within the diocese, were revealed.

The report also said two people were suspended from public ministry, one for a report of sexual abuse and one for a report of “boundary violation,” which Valenti said could involve such things as “sitting too close to a child, seeking time alone with a particular child, or giving gifts or special favors.”

Allegations of sexual abuse that include “specific information about the accused and relevant facts” are referred to police and other authorities if the case involved a minor, the report said.

Two sexual abuse allegation reports were still pending, and two people were cleared of sexual abuse allegations and returned to service. Nine people were cleared of boundary violations.

She was appointed ombudsman last year as the diocese became involved in lawsuits that alleged sexual misconduct by clergy.

The Rev. Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty last week to federal charges of producing child pornography. His case also led to charges against the Bishop Robert Finn, head of the diocese, for failing to report suspected child abuse. Finn has pleaded not guilty.

In 2008, the diocese agreed to pay 47 people who alleged they were abused by clergy a total of $10 million and promised to train its priests about sexual abuse awareness and to report any suspicions that children were being placed in danger.

Valenti said in the two-page report that she “promised to honor the trust you have placed in me by being open and honest about my work.”

However, Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she would have liked to have seen much more information in Valenti’s report, which she characterized as “totally unclear.”

“We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know where these people are, and we don’t know what they did,” she said. “We don’t know if the kids are safe.”

“If the goal of this is to reach out... and protect children, then she’s failed miserably,” Dorris added.

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