AP NEWS

28 priests, brothers credibly accused in Kansas diocese

March 29, 2019

Allegations of clergy sexual abuse have been substantiated against 28 priests or religious clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salina in central Kansas in cases mostly stemming from the 1950s to the 1980s, according to investigations by church officials.

Bishop Gerald Vincke on Friday released the names of 14 credibly accused priests after a county prosecutor, who’s now a judge, audited the clergy files and a lay committee reviewed the findings. The other 14 clergy members were Capuchin brothers from two separate provinces that completed their own inquiries.

Twelve of the 14 accused priests are now dead, while the other two have been removed from the clergy. Three of the accused Capuchin brothers are dead, while the others are either under supervision after being removed from the ministry or are no longer part of the order.

The diocese said it excluded priests facing unsubstantiated allegations but would update the list if new information leads to the substantiation of additional cases. The findings have been turned over to the Kansas Attorney General.

Among the accused clergy, two were accused of abusing vulnerable adults while the rest of the victims were children. The allegations date to as far back as 1907, while others occurred in the last decade. Many occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, the investigations found.

Additionally, Theodore McCarrick , the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., is living in a friary in the Salina Diocese after he was expelled from the priesthood last month for sexually abusing minors and seminarians. None of McCarrick’s abuse occurred in Salina.

Vincke wrote in a message posted on the diocese’s website that his “heart aches” for the victims and their families.

Vincke highlighted several missteps in his message, including how the diocese handled allegations against William Merchant, who was first accused in 1968. Vincke said there wasn’t a thorough investigation at the time, when the diocese received two allegations of abuse of a minor against Merchant. Another allegation was made against Merchant in 1999, but it appears the claim wasn’t thoroughly investigated until 2002 when the accuser reached out again, Vincke wrote.

Vincke said several other accusers have come forward since then. Merchant died in 1975.

“There have been times in the past when the Church failed to address the needs of the people who are victims in favor of protecting the reputation of the priest,” he wrote. “I am sorry for any time in the past when the Church attempted to solve the issues on their own instead of informing the proper law enforcement of an allegation. By our omission, we committed a terrible injustice to all people who are victims of abuse.”

The Salina Diocese is among many to reopen their files following the release of a scathing report last year in Pennsylvania citing abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests since the 1940s, along with cover-up by church leaders.