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Advocacy group criticizes Kansas City-St. Joseph bishop

By MARGARET STAFFORDSeptember 9, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An advocacy group for people sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests is criticizing the bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese for not naming more people on a list of clerics who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

Bishop James Johnston Jr. released a list Friday of 19 clerics from the diocese who he said had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of children against them. Another 11 former clerics were named in different categories.

On Monday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said at a news conference that the bishop’s list was incomplete because it didn’t include priests who at some point lived or worked in the Kansas City area but who were accused of sexual abuse in other dioceses.

David Clohessy, Missouri director for SNAP, argued the diocese should do all it can to publicize the names of any cleric accused of abuse, even if that person was not assigned to the diocese, even if they have already been publicly named by other dioceses.

“The bishop has a simple choice,” Clohessy said. “If you want to safeguard the vulnerable, there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t put these names on your list and warn the flock of every single child molester, nun, bishop, monk, seminarian, priest or even lay teachers who they should be concerned about ... Bishop Johnson has had more than enough time to look at the work of his fellow bishops and say ‘I can do better’ and he hasn’t.”

Spokesman Jack Smith said the diocese is willing to consider new information on any cleric and will update its list if it is warranted. But he noted some of the priests mentioned by SNAP on Monday lived or worked briefly in the Kansas City area while never being assigned to the diocese.

“It would simply be impossible to research anyone who came to Kansas City, with no supervision from us and no ministerial assignment, who was later accused somewhere else of abuse” Smith said.

Tom Viviano, who said he was abused by a priest as a child in St. Louis, said the church has not taken his allegations seriously and his abuser has not been named on any list.

“The church acts as if it’s not real,” he said. “They try to cover and protect their priests instead of worrying about their people. That’s what hurts me.”

Clohessey also urged anyone who knows of an abuser to contact law enforcement or advocacy groups such as SNAP, rather than contacting the diocese.

″(A perpetrator) should be behind bars, but he won’t be if you call Bishop Johnson,” he said. “They might be if you call the police. He won’t be publicly exposed if you call Bishop Johnson, he might be if you call us. If you are worried that people don’t know about the cleric who abused you or someone you know, take action. But don’t call the church, call secular officials.”

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