The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has hired a law firm to review allegations of sexual abuse.
On Aug. 20, attorney Rebecca Randles said her firm identified more than 230 priests from five Kansas and Missouri dioceses accused of misconduct.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas covers parts of northeast Kansas, including Topeka.
“To ensure that we have an accurate historical knowledge of how the archdiocese has responded to allegations of misconduct, I have decided to engage an independent law firm with the expertise and staff to conduct a review of our priest personnel files going back to 1950,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said.
Randles, however, said that doesn’t meet her call for an investigation and transparency about the issue. Independent law firm investigations aren’t independent, she said.
“When push comes to shove, their client is the archdiocese,” Randles said. “The investigative materials will be shielded from review by the attorney-client privilege.”
She also said the archdiocese can “cherry pick” the information it releases and that because “the archdiocese maintains control of the process, very few victims will trust the process enough to share their experiences.”
Randles said she has about a dozen active lawsuits against area priests, including a case involving a former priest at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Topeka.
Naumann, who has been a priest for more than 43 years, released a lengthy statement Friday saying the first response to this latest wave of controversy surrounding abuse in the church should be prayer. Efforts that support commitment to the care of victims, improved accountability of bishops and transparency should also be supported.
“The reason for this current crisis is not primarily one of individual weakness, but failures of the accountability of bishops,” he said.
The church has made “real progress,” he said, including communicating with law enforcement when an allegation involving a minor is made, and enlisting a former FBI agent and Kansas Highway Patrol detective to investigate. They also have an independent review board, which is an advisory body.
Naumann notes that previous reports on the issue found “a high percentage of victims of clergy sexual misconduct were post-pubescent males,” and later says, “homosexual activity is always seriously sinful.”
The Archdiocese of St. Louis, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Diocese of Jefferson City are opening their files to the Missouri Attorney General for an investigation, according to The Associated Press.