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Kansas City Catholic Diocese Announces Increase In Abuse Reports

Alex Smith

A new report from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph shows an increase in reports of child sexual abuse and suspicious behavior toward children.  The report is the work of the diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection. While the overall numbers of reports are up, confirmed cases of abuse appear to be down.

The diocese received 107 reports of abuse or suspicious behavior in the period from July of 2012 through June of this year. That’s an increase of 35 percent from the previous year, although that increase is only in referrals.  Those are cases that fall outside of jurisdiction of the diocese.  Jenifer Valenti is ombudsman for the diocese. She says an increase in reports isn’t a bad thing.

“The fact that I’m getting so many referral calls tells me that people are taking their personal responsibility very seriously,” explains Valenti. “That after receiving our mandated reporter training, they fully understand their responsibility, and they’re ready to take action.”

Within the diocese, reports are slightly down. There were 17 reports of sexual abuse and 16 reports of suspicious behavior, or what the diocese calls “boundary violations.” The report doesn’t specify whether the actions reported took place recently or in previous years.

“Boundary violations – typically – they are talking about recent behaviors,” Valenti says. “Sexual abuse reports are both historical and recent.”

After investigations of these reports, four people were removed from service. Two cases of sexual abuse were substantiated. Both of the individuals named had already been removed from service. Four of the cases reported have investigations pending. Whether the cases end up in court remains to be seen.

“The Diocese reports every single case to civil authorities,” says Valenti. “So it just depends on if civil authorities, if the prosecuting attorney’s office, chooses to file charges. And that’s something obviously beyond our control.”

The reports from the diocese have been criticized by the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests. SNAP says the diocese should name those accused and alert the public each time a report is received.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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