Two former parishioners of a Catholic church in northeast Kansas claim they were sexually abused by a Benedictine monk who was assisting at the church in the early 1960s, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced Wednesday.
The archdiocese is looking into the allegations against the monk, who resides at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, said the Rev. Charles McGlinn, the archdiocese’s vicar general of personnel. He did not identify the monk.
One of the former parishioners at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Seneca has asked for substantial monetary compensation, the archdiocese said in a statement released Wednesday through its newspaper, The Leaven.
“We are just waiting to see what happens,” McGlinn said. “We are trying to arrange a meeting with the people, but that has not happened yet.”
The identities of the former parishioners and information about the alleged abuse were not available. The one seeking compensation is 50 years old and no longer lives in Kansas, the archdiocese said. No information was available on the other parishioner.
The two recently approached the abbot of St. Benedict’s Abbey with their informal claims, McGlinn said. The archdiocese learned of it about a week ago, he said.
“The diocese is really kind of a separate entity from the order in the monastery. They have their own jurisdictions,” McGlinn said, so it would be natural for the former parishioners to go to the abbot.
McGlinn referred questions on how the inquiry would be handled to the abbot, the Right Rev. Barnabas Senecal. He could not be reached Wednesday. The priest at Sts. Peter and Paul Church also referred questions to Senecal.
In the statement released by the archdiocese, Senecal said he was cooperating fully with the archdiocese to determine whether one of his charges might have abused his clerical responsibilities outside the abbey.
The abbey houses an independent Catholic order. Its monks often volunteer for temporary assignments at parishes in the area.
The alleged cases occurred before the present-day diocesan leadership was in place, Archbishop James P. Keleher said in the statement.
“These recent allegations, assuming they are credible, weigh heavily on my heart and on the hearts of everyone in this archdiocese,” Keleher said. “… The monk named in the complaint, a member of the independent abbey, was not a diocesan priest, and we can find no record of any complaints lodged with our diocese.
“Still, these are serious accusations that St. Benedict’s Abbey and ultimately our church must deal with. We have made a steadfast commitment to cooperate fully with secular authorities, for it is our utmost desire to purge this sort of activity, real or perceived, and to maintain public trust in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.”
The archdiocese’s intent is to do what is right, Keleher said. “But in today’s climate, particularly, we must also be extra careful not to wrongfully defame anyone who might be innocent.”
Archdiocese and abbey representatives this week visited with parishioners at the church in Seneca, a town of about 2,000.