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Catholic Diocese of Wichita names 15 priests accused of child sexual abuse

A Catholic priest from Coloma is accused of binding and blindfolding a young boy before locking him in a church janitor's closet for over an hour. (MGN)
A Catholic priest from Coloma is accused of binding and blindfolding a young boy before locking him in a church janitor's closet for over an hour. (MGN)(WJRT)
Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 8:28 AM CDT
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The Catholic Diocese of Wichita has named 15 priests against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been substantiated.

The diocese said it published the list on Thursday "after a comprehensive and independent audit of all clergy files over the last several months" by Stephen Robison, a non-Catholic lawyer of Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson and Kitch, Attorneys at Law.

The list includes the names of nine priests from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita and six additional priests who were not priests of the diocese but served in the diocese for a period of time and whose names were published by other dioceses.

The nine Catholic Diocese of Wichita priests are Paul Alderman, Robert Blanpied, Peter Duke, Robert K. Larson, Charles O'Connor, Robert Schleiter, Alonzo Smithhisler, Charles Walsh and William Wheeler.

The six other priests are Michael Baca, John Habethier, Stephen Muth, Thomas O'Donohue, Robert Schleiter, Arthur J Van Speybroeck and John Walsh.

The priests' names, ordination dates, assignment histories and current status can be found on the

page. There's also a link there to

.

The diocese says all clergy currently listed have either been removed from ministry or are deceased. The majority are deceased.

"Going forward, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita in cooperation with its Policy on Suspected Abuse of Children will continue to disclose the names of any clergy against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is substantiated," said the diocese.

In a video posted to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Bishop Carl A. Kemme addressed his decision to name the priests.

He first apologized to the survivor victims and the families and asked that others pray for them.

"I express my most sincere and deepest apologies for the suffering you may have experienced due to these criminal, sinful and horrific acts by priests of this diocese," said Kemme.

He then encouraged other victim-survivors who have not come forward to do so "so that a thorough investigation can be initiated."

He said these potential abuse victims should contact local authorities. They can also call the diocese's Abuse Response Hotline at 316-269-3945.

Kemme said he would be turning over the information compiled and the names of the priests to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation which has launched a statewide investigation into clergy abuse within the Catholic church.

Eyewitness News Friday spoke with a mother of one of the victims who says there are other names that still need to be added the diocese's list and victims that still need help.

Janet Patterson's 29-year-old son died by suicide. She says he killed himself as a result of abuse he endured from former priest, Father Robert Larson.

"These people are dangerous and they should be treated as dangerous criminals," Patterson says.

Robison, hired by the diocese to do the audit, says he looked at more than 1,000 files.

"I can tell you from the mid to late 90s on, there was communication with the district attorney's office. Before that, it was spotty."

Robison says he did find newer reports within the last decade, but none were substantiated.

Patterson says the diocese's response is "an effort to appear transparent."

"...And there are a lot of things they are do that are good, I don't want to say they aren't, but it hasn't been extensively taken care of yet," she says. "It's not finished by far."

Eyewitness News requested an interview with the bishop to ask more questions. That request was denied.

For now, it's unclear what crimes or offenses priests named by the Wichita diocese are accused of. That, according to Wichita attorney Charley O'Hara is why there are no definite answers as to whether any of the four still-living priests named in the report will face charges.

"I think you're going to have to examine each case, case by case to determine whether the statute of limitations has expired because even touching is a very serious offense, and under some circumstances, people can go to prison fro life for those," he says.

O'Hara is not involved in this case, but he says there are crimes like aggravated criminal sodomy and rape, that if they involve a child, could still be prosecuted today, regardless of how long ago the crimes happened.

Eyewitness News also spoke to the KBI who has been investigation allegations against Catholic priests.

As this is an ongoing investigation, the agency said it couldn't comment on whether any of the priests named by the Wichita diocese are part of their investigation and if any of them could face charges.

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