Archive for Tuesday, April 30, 2002

K.C. diocese releases details of misconduct complaints

April 30, 2002


— Five complaints of sexual misconduct were lodged in the early 1980s against a former monsignor in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the archdiocese announced Monday.

The complaints against Monsignor Thomas O'Brien were lodged by five different men, all of whom were 18 or older when they came forward, said the Rev. Patrick Rush, vicar general of the diocese.

O'Brien denied the claims. Though the diocese said it had no evidence to support the allegations, O'Brien was nonetheless sent off for psychological evaluation and treatment under the policy of then-bishop John J. Sullivan, who has since died.

After the first complaint was filed in September 1983, O'Brien was removed as pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Independence, Mo., and sent to New Mexico and Washington D.C. for evaluation and treatment, Rush said. Four more complaints were filed about the same time against O'Brien, who vigorously denied them, Rush said.

The diocese did not offer any of the complainants a settlement, nor did they sign confidentiality agreements.

Sullivan required any priest who had similar complaints made against them to be evaluated and treated, diocese spokeswoman Rebbeca Summers said.

Rush said his review of records from the time do not indicate any evidence was found to substantiate the allegations. The diocese did not receive any allegations of sexual misconduct against O'Brien after June 1984.

After he completed treatment, O'Brien returned to the diocese in June 1984. He was then assigned as chaplain of the St. Joseph Health Center, an assignment that church leaders believed did not put any children at risk.

O'Brien served in that capacity from August 1985 to July 1994, living at St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City. While at the parish, O'Brien celebrated Mass but did not perform any ministries that put children at risk, Rush said.

O'Brien retired from the diocese in July 1994 and moved into his own apartment. He worked as a part-time chaplain-employee of St. Joseph Health Center until retiring Friday.

The decision to make the allegations public was made after meetings between officials from the diocese, St. Joseph Health Center and O'Brien, Rush said.

"With five accusations out there, in the current climate, it seems to us these accusations were likely to go public," Rush said. "We wanted to go public first to let people know what we had found."

Rush said he had ordered O'Brien not to celebrate Mass until after the allegations are reviewed again by an oversight group.

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