The Diocese of Jefferson City is demanding increased transparency from the religious communities operating within it, and would like increased accountability over clergy in its care who have been removed from ministry over credible allegations of sexual abuse or concern for children's safety.
The diocese's Bishop Shawn McKnight announced Thursday a list of 33 non-active clergy men and religious brothers who have worked in the diocese after its establishment in 1956, who one way or another have been removed from service and who more likely than not sexually abused children or were found not fit to work around children. The list includes 14 clergy men or religious brothers who are dead; 15 living who have been permanently removed from ministry; two more who have been essentially defrocked; another one who has been expelled from the diocese; and one who has been criminally convicted and imprisoned.
The full list of names of the credibly accused men and resources for victims will be included at or near the end of this story. McKnight did not know Thursday how many children or then-children had been victimized by the clergy who were named because many alleged perpetrators of abuse had multiple victims, and not all victims have come forward — though McKnight hoped they would with the publication of the names of the accused abusers.
McKnight, who read from a lengthy statement, said Thursday "In the past 12 days, I have participated in six listening sessions across our diocese regarding the sexual abuse crisis in our Church. Consistently, I heard the message: 'Get it all out and deal with it. Don't hold any more secrets. We heal better when we all know what the problem is.'"
McKnight said he is doing more.
"In addition, I have contacted the superiors of our religious communities of priest in inform them of my new policy, effective Jan. 1, 2020, that any religious community serving in the Diocese of Jefferson City must commit to the release of names of all their credibly accused members in order to continue serving in our diocese."
Three of the men announced Thursday by McKnight as having been credibly accused of sexual abuse are or were from the Presentation Brothers religious order — two removed from ministry in the diocese, and one who died in 2000.
Another cleric from the Society of the Precious Blood who was not credibly accused but was nonetheless found unsuitable for ministry because of concern for children's safety was expelled from the diocese.
Helen Osman, the diocese's director of communications, said via email Friday the diocese has "priests from the Order of Preachers (OP) and Society of the Precious Blood (CPPS). Religious women serving in the diocese are from the following orders: School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD), Dominican Sisters (OP), Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) and Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas (SCL)."
Osman said McKnight "has been informed by both the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans, and the Precious Blood order that no one from their order who is now serving in the Diocese of Jefferson City has ever been accused of a Charter violation."
The "Charter" she referred to is the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People — a set of procedures developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 to address allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The document has been revised three times, most recently this year.
"We have not heard from the orders yet whether they have already published a list of credibly accused," Osman said. "Many orders have not," though they do have until January 2020.
"The bishop has the sole authority to determine if a member of the clergy or a religious brother or sister is suitable for ministry within the physical boundaries of his diocese. However, religious orders have authority in determining the (suitability) for ministry of their members. It's not a question of 'or' but of 'and,' requiring good collaboration between religious orders and diocesan bishops," Osman said of who determines whether accusations against a member of a religious order are credible — and would therefore need to be reported under the new policy.
McKnight also spoke Thursday about how he wants better oversight of clergy who have been removed from their ministry and who are being cared for by the diocese.
Only two of the credibly accused clergy McKnight publicly named have had their rights to function as an ordained minister removed. "By that very act, they're no longer under the supervision of the bishop or their religious superior," McKnight said.
Some of the other still living priests removed from ministry are being cared for by the diocese.
"They are in a variety of places. And we are currently re-evaluating and implementing a more robust accountability plan on each of the diocesan clergy that we're responsible for that are on this list," McKnight responded to a question Thursday of how many men removed from ministry or expelled are being cared for by the diocese.
"Not all of them reside currently within the diocese, and that's what makes it a little more difficult, because we have to cooperate with others, but that's the new era we are in. They are under restrictions. There's certain things they cannot do, and there's — quite frankly, there's a frustration, there's a limitation on what we can do to them. I don't have the powers of a police state to enforce my will and my decree. We have some canonical opportunities available to us, but whether or not they have civil teeth is another thing," he said.
Osman elaborated Friday on what the accountability plans have been and how McKnight would like to see them made more robust.
"One aspect that is changing is the standardization of how clergy who have been removed are 'sustained,'" she said. "The previous policy was never formalized and seems to have been somewhat ad hoc."
The sustenance she referred to is the diocese's financial support of priests who have been removed from their ministry for misconduct.
McKnight said, since July 1, 2003, the diocese has spent approximately $2.1 million on the care of diocesan priests credibly accused of sexual abuse — $1.8 million of which came from the diocesan infirm priest fund and another $300,000 from the Community Reconciliation Fund.
The diocese spent approximately $2.3 million for the care of survivors and another $300,000 in legal fees during the same timeframe, provided by donors, sale of the St. Thomas Seminary and its assets, other dioceses and religious orders and insurance, McKnight said.
The now formalized policy regarding support for priests removed from ministry is in the form of a diocesan bishop's office decree dated Aug. 31, 2018, and signed by McKnight — which the News Tribune cited in Friday coverage of McKnight's naming of accused men.
The document details if, when and for how long a removed priest will receive his normal salary and benefits or a portion of them. If a priest removed from ministry for being unfit to continue has not found "gainful employment" after three months, "the removed priest will receive sustenance only, which will be determined by the bishop."
Beyond formalized financial guidelines, "The bishop would like to have greater awareness of where the men are, and make a requirement for more frequent 'check in(s)' from them — that is, adjust how they are being monitored," Osman said.
"(Because) none of the diocesan priests were convicted of civil crimes, and they are required to be more or less financially self-sufficient, the diocesan bishop has few means to enforce measures, other than to publicly identify the man as unable to function as a priest in public. In many ways, it is similar to those people who are on the sex offender registry. To succeed, these measures rely on the public to be informed and to hold people accountable."
Clergy and religious brothers who have worked in the Diocese of Jefferson City and been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children:
Clergy who have served in the Diocese of Jefferson City, but were found by the bishop to be unsuitable for ministry out of concern for the safety of children included:
McKnight said if anyone has further information about any priest, deacon or religious brother or sister, please contact the appropriate civil authorities, or Nancy Hoey, the diocese's victims assistance coordinator.
Hoey — "a licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical trauma professional" — can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-694-3199.
The Diocese of Jefferson City has also listed other victim resources:
Mike Berendzen is the diocese's coordinator of Child and Youth Protection and can be contacted at 573-635-9127 ext. 224 or email@example.com.
The Missouri Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline is 1-800-392-3738.
The Missouri Adult Abuse & Neglect Hotline is 1-800-392-0210.
The state attorney general's office also has an online form to report clergy abuse at ago.mo.gov/other-resources/clergy-abuse-resources/clergy-abuse-victim-resource-form.
McKnight's requested independent review of allegations of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Jefferson City conducted by the office of Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senator-elect Josh Hawley is ongoing.
Redacted transcripts of the series of six listening sessions McKnight recently hosted on abuse in the Catholic Church — including one in Jefferson City last weekend — are expected to be posted online this week, Osman said Thursday.
McKnight said "what I heard in the listening sessions all throughout the diocese this last couple of weeks were we have people of strong faith, people who are weathering this storm that we are encountering, with faith. They have some righteous anger, which I understand, and they have some very good proposals, which I will be taking to the conference of bishops next week," responding to a reporter's question Thursday of what his views of the diocese were in light of the information he had announced.
The bishops' conference he referred to is scheduled for Monday-Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, where "bishops will discuss and vote on a series of concrete measures to respond to the abuse crisis, including those approved for the agenda at the September meeting of the Administrative Committee, such as a third-party reporting mechanism, standards of conduct for bishops and protocols for bishops resigned or removed because of abuse," according to the USCCB.