FF12 looks into priests with "substantiated" sexual abuse allegations
In March, Salina Catholic Bishop Gerald Vincke released the names of more than a dozen priests with substantiated sexual abuse allegations. The 14 men served the state in dozens of churches and all but two are now dead.
FactFinder 12 went through the Salina Public Library's microfiche system to learn what we could about the men listed.
Father Louis Bachand was ordained in 1957. The Catholic Diocese says Bachand's abuse happened in the late 1950's and early 1960's though the victim did not report it until 2011. The Diocese says it did an investigation but Bachand was dead when the abuse was reported. It says there was only one allegation against Bachand.
The microfiche revealed Bachand's obituary which says he was born near Clyde and served at Junction City, Osborne, Colby and Concordia.
The Salina Journal reported Bachand was active in boy scouts winning the St. George Award in 1970 and the Silver Beaver Award in 1972. The St. George Award goes specifically to any Roman Catholic leaders who contribute to scouts' spiritual development in the Catholic faith. The article about Bachand's award says he was the chaplain of St. Ann's home and was the part time assistant at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
Father Maurice Dion was ordained in 1944. The Catholic Diocese says Dion's abuse happened in the 1960's and 1970's though the victim did not report it until 2002. The Diocese says it did an investigation but Dion was dead by the time the Diocese was able to substantiate the claims. It says there was more than one allegation against him.
The microfiche revealed little about Dion's life other than a bit from his obituary. It said he was born in Manchester, NH and died at 87.
Father Christian Dreiling was ordained in 1915. The Catholic Diocese says Dreiling's abuse happened in the 1930's and the victim reported it in 1939. The Diocese says it did an investigation and in 1940 placed Dreiling on a diocesan and court ordered leave for eight years for his criminal activity. The Diocese says during that time, Dreiling had five years of treatment which was deemed successful so he was allowed to be re-instated and stayed with the Diocese until he died. The Diocese does not say who determined the treatment was successful. It says there was only one allegation against Dreiling.
The microfiche didn't reveal any new information about Dreiling.
Father Roger Hough was ordained in 1964. The Catholic Diocese says Hough's abuse happened between 2001 and 2002 and was reported in 2001. The Diocese says it did an investigation and removed Hough in 2005. It says the Diocese ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance. It says there was only one allegation against Hough.
The microfiche revealed Hough was born in Abilene and studied theology at Conception Seminary in Missouri for four years where he was then ordained as a sub-deacon. The Salina Journal reported he also graduated from Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Mo and did graduate work in Milwaukee, Wis.
Hough made history at St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church as the first member of the parish to become priest of the church. Because of the historical act, he was ordained there as opposed to Salina where most priests are ordained.
He was parish administrator for Delphos and Glasco and later became the diocesan director of the Society for Propagation of the Faith while also administering a parish in Meredith. Hough was an assistant at St. Mary Queen of the Universe Church in Salina while he was head of missionary activity in the Salina Diocese.
He was an assistant in Hanover and Concordia churches and was pastor of St. Thomas Church in Stockton before being transferred to become associate chaplain at Kansas State University for Catholic students there.
Father Louis Mattas was ordained in 1960. The Catholic Diocese says Mattas' abuse happened in the mid 1960's and early 1980's though the victims did not report it until 2005 and 2007. The Diocese says it did an investigation and found the abuse reported in 2007 was substantiated but couldn't substantiate the abuse reported in 2005. The Diocese instructed Mattas to live a life of prayer and penance following the finding. It says there was more than one allegation against him.
The microfiche showed Mattas was active in the communities he served. He was the chaplain of the Junior Catholic Daughters of America, an organization which tries to develop Christianity, teach members to work for the good of others and grow spiritually while being creative and flexible, according to the Salina Journal.
Mattas was the commander of the 6th District American Legion, a role the Salina Journal reports was never before held by a priest. Mattas said at the time, he stepped down because most of the legion's events were on weekends when he was busiest at the church.
"I think anybody who is a member of the Legion knows that it is a religious-minded organization," he said at the time.
Mattas also was the chairman of the $200,000 Marymount college fund drive which Mattas at the time said to the Journal was to clear up past years of debt at the college and restore sound finances. He would later become a trustee for the school.
He worked in St. Mary Queen of the Universe Church in Salina and became the Diocesan Director of Development while he worked as pastor for a parish in Junction City. He would oversee the elementary and middle schools in Junction City as well. Mattas also worked in the Kanopolis church while overseeing missions in Holyrood and Brookville. He held other titles including Diocesan Rural Life Director, Secretary of the Diocesan Priests' Senate and Business Manager.
Mattas also served as the treasurer for the Central Kansas Counsel of Girl Scouts.
While working in Salina, The Salina Journal reports Mattas and a number of parishioners went to Cummings, Ia. to Pope John Paul II's outdoor mass.
"Most people think this is the closest the pope will ever be to us," he said at the time.
Father William Merchant was ordained in 1938. The Catholic Diocese says Merchant's abuse happened in the 1960's and 1970's and victims reported the abuse in 1968, 1999 and between 2000 and 2004. The Diocese says it did not investigate the 1968 and 1999 allegations but it did investigate the allegations from between 2000 and 2004. It says there was more than one allegation against Merchant.
The microfiche reveals Merchant died from a heart attack in San Francisco coming back from a trip.
Following his death, students at Sacred Heart high school commemorated his birthday with a memorial mass at their school. Merchant was described as someone committed to youth and a Catholic education.
He was on the board of Sacred Heart high school and taught religion there before moving on to Junction City, Clay Center and Manhattan. The Salina Journal reports he ran schools in three of his assigned cities. Merchant was active in the Catholic Youth Organization too.
After his death, the cathedral started an academic fund in name in hopes of remembering him through gifts to schools.
Father John Moeder was ordained in 1957. The Catholic Diocese says Moeder's abuse happened in the late 1970's though the victim did not report it until 2018. The Diocese says it did an investigation but Moeder was dead when the abuse was reported. It says there was only one allegation against Moeder.
Microfiche at the Salina Public Library reveals Moeder was ordained with Louis Bachand and worked in Manhattan before working in Abilene as pastor of St. Andrew's Church. He worked as the administrator of Sacred Heart parish in Esbon while also working a mission in Smith Center as well.
Father Thomas O'Donhoe was ordained in 1910. The Catholic Diocese says O'Donohoe's abuse happened between 1943 and 1945 though the victim did not report it until 2004. The Diocese says it did an investigation but O'Donohoe was dead when the abuse was reported. It says there was only one allegation against O'Donohoe.
Microfiche shows little about O'Donohoe other than his obituary. It states he died at St. Thomas Hospital after two months of illness. It says he was chaplain of the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia for several years. The Salina Journal says he was at the cathedral in Salina before he became chaplain at St. Thomas Hospital in Colby.
He was born in Ireland and moved to the Diocese when he was young.
Father Robert Reif was ordained in 1967. The Catholic Diocese says Reif's abuse happened in the 1970's and 1980's with victims reporting the crimes in 1986, 2002 and 2005. The Diocese says it did an investigation and suspended Reif. He underwent treatment between 1986 and 1987 and took a leave of absence in 1988. The Diocese says he never returned. Reif was laicized in 2006. The Diocese says there was more than one allegation against Reif.
The microfiche showed Reif was born in Osborne and attended Osborne Public Schools before earning a bachelor's in sociology from St. Benedict's College in Atchison. He then went on to Kenrick seminary in St. Louis for three years.
Once he became an ordained priest, he worked in Junction City, Abilene, Phillipsburg and Claudell and assisted Msgr. Merchant at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.
Reif was the retreat master for the annual Salina Roman Catholic diocesan women's retreat at Marymount College.
A lawsuit was filed against the Catholic Church on behalf of two brothers who say Reif abused them in several cities across Kansas for several years. The brothers reported the church knew about the abuse and did nothing until paying the family $25,300 and promising Reif would get help. The Salina Journal also cited an article from the then-Wichita Eagle Beacon saying before Reif left the priesthood, he apologized to the parents of the brothers, "for breaking the sacred trust of a friendship," though he didn't admit to the abuse.
The Diocese argued it could not be sued and also said it didn't know about any of the abuse.
The lawsuit was dismissed because a Wichita judge said it was filed too late. The Salina Journal reports before 1992, sexual abuse victims under 18 had up to 8 years, or their 19th birthday, to bring action. Then the law changed to say action could come within 3 years of remembering the abuse but both plaintiffs were older than 19 when the law was changed. The judge ruled because they didn't qualify under the old rule, they couldn't benefit from the new one.
At last notice, Reif lived in California.
Father Allen Scheer was ordained in 1995. The Catholic Diocese says Scheer's abuse happened in 2012 and was reported in the same year. The Diocese says it did an investigation and Scheer was arrested, convicted and then laicized in 2012 removing him from the Diocese. It says there was only one allegation against Scheer.
Before Scheer's crime made the news, he was on the front page of The Salina Journal for waking up to someone breaking into St. Mary's Catholic Church. He told reporters he heard a noise and went downstairs to see a door forced open which prompted him to call police.
Officers arrested five teenagers for the crime in addition to what police called a rash of church burglaries. But soon, he'd make the front page for his own crime.
Another article in 2012 titled, "Pastor accused of sex crime" shows Scheer's photo when he was arrested for sexual battery. Salina Police say he was accused of touching an adult male, "with the intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires." Salina Police say it happened at the victim's home.
The Diocese said it put Scheer on administrative leave and in a statement said, "The Diocese will fully cooperate with the investigation conducted by local law enforcement."
Father Robert Schleiter was ordained in 1954. The Catholic Diocese says Schleiter's abuse happened in the 1950's and victims reported the abuse in 1957, 1980 and 2003. The Diocese says it did an investigation in 1957 and asked Schleiter to leave. The Diocese says there was no response to the allegation in 1980 but doesn't say why and then in 2003, the same victim as 1980 reported abuse again. The Diocese says Schleiter was laicized in 1969. It says there was more than one allegation against Schleiter.
Father Eugene Senecal was ordained in 1940. The Catholic Diocese says Senecal's abuse happened in the 1960's and 1970's but was not reported until 1994 and 2002. The Diocese says it did an investigation but Senecal was dead when the abuse was reported. It says there was more than one allegation against Senecal.
Microfiche show Senecal died of a heart attack in Holland after the final leg of the European Holy Year pilgrimage.
His obituary says he was born in Zurich and was one of 12 children, five of whom became priests or nuns. It says he was ordained after going to Maur Hill Preparatory School and St. Benedict's college at Atchison as well as St. Thomas Seminary in Denver.
It says he was the assistant pastor at churches in Park, Hanover and Aurora before going to Oberlin. It says he also worked with patients at the Norton Sanitorium and then went on to work in churches in Minneapolis, Kimeo and Herington before becoming the pastor of Grinnell's Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church.
Father Arthur Van Speybroeck was ordained in 1902. The Catholic Diocese says Van Speybroeck's abuse happened in 1907 and was reported that same year. The Diocese says it did an investigation and Van Speybroek left the Dioecese following the investigation. We didn't find any other information about him.
Father John Walsh was ordained in 1955. The Catholic Diocese says Walsh's abuse happened between 1972 and 1978 though the victim did not report it until 2002. The Diocese says it did an investigation but Walsh retired after the allegation. There was only one allegation made. FactFinder 12 didn't find any additional information about Walsh.
Chuck Weber is the Executive Director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. He says the Catholic Church does not condone what happened.
"I, as a Catholic, and the Catholic Church in general that I know, we hang our heads in shame on what happened in the past but we've taken steps to make sure that to the extent possible, this does not happen again," he said.
Weber said he thinks the problem is cultural but that the Catholic Church was in denial for a long time. He said he, in no way, excuses what happened but he believes there is a cultural issue that helped perpetuate this.
Weber said it was 2002 when things changed and the tipping point was victims coming forward.
"In the Catholic circles it's called the Dallas Charter where the bishops of the United States got together and said we are not doing an adequate job at all at addressing this issue," he said.
He said the result was a drop in sexual abuse involving clergy.
Most Catholic priests are good men, Weber said, but he thinks the church can do more to help reduce and stop sexual abuse. He said he's supported Senator Tom Holland's bill that would make clergy mandatory reporters of abuse.
"It doesn't specifically address the clergy abuse crisis but it also includes clergy as well," he said.
The bill hasn't passed yet but he says he's hopeful for next session. He says he believes the Catholic Church has now put into place a standard for safe environments now that it does extensive KBI background checks and training for anyone working with children.