Kansas archdiocese hires law firm to study abuse allegations

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) – The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has hired a law firm to examine its handling of allegations of sexual abuse by its priests going back nearly seven decades.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann wrote in a column published Friday in the archdiocese’s newspaper, The Leaven, that the firm was hired to review priest personnel files back to the 1950s “to ensure that we have an accurate historical knowledge of how the archdiocese has responded to allegations of misconduct.” He did not name the law firm or provide any details about how it would operate. A spokesman for the archdiocese said Naumann would not comment beyond his column.

In the lengthy column, Naumann cited recent scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church, including a grand jury report that revealed widespread abuse by up to 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses over the last 70 years, and reports that Pope Francis and other church leaders knew about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, but rehabilitated him anyway. He acknowledged that Catholics are upset and confused by how church leaders have handled the crisis.

Naumann said the current problems were caused more by failures of bishop accountability than by individual weakness.

“For me and my brother bishops, it is a time to renew our determination to strive to be shepherds who follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd,” he wrote. “Please pray for me and my brother bishops as we seek to make the structural reforms that will ensure greater accountability on our part.”

Rebecca Randles, who has represented several people who say they were abused by priests in Kansas and Missouri, questioned the usefulness of a diocese hiring a law firm, saying it won’t satisfy her call for an investigation and transparency, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported .

“When push comes to shove, their client is the Archdiocese. The investigative materials will be shielded from review by the attorney client privilege,” said Randles. She recently said her firm had identified more than 230 priests from five Kansas and Missouri archdioceses who had been accused of misconduct.

Randles 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.”