Open and transparent. That’s the wording of reforms within the Catholic Church promoting openness with the public about cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy. But a two-year Journal-World and 6News investigation into the Kansas Catholic Church shows that church officials continue to keep the public in the dark about some cases of abuse.
The Catholic Diocese of Dodge City has released further information about cases of alleged sexual abuse, naming two priests who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse made against them, church officials say.
A statement released by the diocese and posted on its website names former priests Donald Straub and Orestes Huerta. According to the statement, the diocesan review board, which investigates cases of sexual abuse, “conducted an investigation of all the allegations of abuse and made an initial determination of credibility” against the priests.
The diocese also reported that it has received 13 allegations of sexual abuse of minors allegedly committed by seven priests since 2003. Following the investigations, information was given to parishioners about the priests and asked for any other victims to come forward, according to the statement.
As part of last month’s Journal-World/6News series on sexual abuse in the Kansas Catholic Church — “The Abuse Puzzle” — the Dodge City Diocese declined an interview request and originally provided information about only one allegedly abusive priest, John Haberthier, who died in 2009.
After publication of the series, the Rev. Bob Schremmer, vicar general from the diocese, notified the Journal-World about the updated information.
Of the 13 total cases handled in the diocese since 2003, all of the cases allege abuse “occurring more than two decades ago,” and there “are no allegations of abuse against any priest currently serving within the diocese,” according to the statement. All of the credible cases involve priests who are deceased or no longer in active ministry, according to the diocese.
Nearly $700,000 has been spent on legal settlements with victims of sexual abuse in the diocese.
The diocese did not return calls or e-mails requesting further information about Straub or Huerta, and the statement did not include information about when or where the alleged abuse occurred.
Straub, ordained in 1975, was a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who served in the Dodge City Diocese for several months at the end of 1990 and early 1991, according to the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A statement released by the archdiocese in 2004 outlined allegations of abuse against Straub, which began as early as 1978. On several occasions, according to the statement, the archdiocese received complaints of sexual abuse against Straub, but after therapy, returned him to ministry, where he was again accused of sexual abuse.
According to the statement, “The reassignment of Straub after therapy would not occur today. Unfortunately, in the past, there was a different understanding in society and among professionals of the danger that a person will again abuse, even after treatment.”
Straub was eventually removed from ministry in 2004. There have been six civil lawsuits filed in Missouri between 2004 and 2007 naming Straub and the Archdiocese of St. Louis as defendants.
Attempts to reach Straub were unsuccessful.
There was no other information available about Huerta, who Schremmer said served temporarily in Dodge City.