Press Release

From… Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province

Press Contact:

Stephen Mangione Associates Inc.

Public Relations Steve Mangione 914-403-4072 (c)

For Immediate Release

CINCINNATI, OH. – October 9, 2020 – The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province today posted on their website a list that names members and former members of the Province who have substantiated child sex abuse allegations against them.

After months of comprehensive scrutiny and analysis by a team of forensic psychologists and investigators at Burnett Risk Control International – an independent firm expert in the examination of sexual abuse and misconduct claims – investigators determined that 31 friars had a total of 55 substantiated child sexual abuse allegations against them.

Publishing the list of friars with substantiated allegations is part of the Province’s steadfast commitment to transparency and accountability, as well as its impassioned determination to bring healing to abuse survivors.

The independent, all-encompassing investigation scrutinized the backgrounds of all St. John the Baptist Province members dating back to 1940 – reaching a full decade beyond the 1950 benchmark used by the Catholic Church and other organizations.

The 31 friars named on the list compiled by the independent investigators were stationed in 34 archdioceses and dioceses in 16 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, D.C.. St. John the Baptist Province has sent the published list to the bishops of all 34 locations.

An allegation was deemed “substantiated” based on the following criteria established by the forensic investigators:

  • the friar’s own admission,
  • a criminal or civil adjudication, or
  • an administrative/internal investigation and action.

Of the 31 friars named on the list, 22 are deceased. Of the 9 who are living, 2 are permanently removed from all ministry and living under supervised safety plans, and 7 left the Order. If necessary, updates will be made to the list which provides the names of the friars, their date of ordination (if ordained to the priesthood), and their current status.

“We are hopeful that publishing the names of friars with substantiated allegations against them will bring some measure of healing, reconciliation and resolution to abuse survivors. We hope that shining a light on these offending friars will bring peace to survivors and their families and contribute to their healing. As part of the healing and reconciliation process, we pray for all those who were harmed,” said Father Mark Soehner, OFM, Provincial Minister of St. John the Baptist Province.

“Publishing these names is an expression of sorrow, regret and apology for the harm done to the abuse survivors. The behavior of these friars is not acceptable in our fraternity and is a betrayal of our Franciscan values,” Fr. Soehner added.

The provincial leadership of St. John the Baptist Province had announced in 2019 that it would make public the names of friars with substantiated allegations of child sex abuse against them. The comprehensive independent investigation began last fall.

Publishing the names of friars is consistent with the Province’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and misconduct – policies and procedures whose components include prevention, education, monitoring, auditing, reporting, and responding.

Fr. Soehner said that the Province’s policies and procedures are based on the highest established standards in the private sector developed by Praesidium Inc., an independent, nationally recognized authority that scrutinizes and evaluates the sexual abuse protection and response policies of major private and public organizations. The Province’s compliance with and implementation of its sexual abuse protection policies are regularly reviewed and accredited by Praesidium.

“This independent oversight – with Praesidium scrutinizing and monitoring every action, every step of the Province’s policies and procedures – ensures transparency and accountability and, most importantly, the safety and protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” Fr. Soehner said.

In addition to Praesidium Inc., the Province’s policies and procedures follow the national standards of religious organizations, including the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

Among the actions taken by the Province under its zero-tolerance policies and procedures are:

  • All allegations (no matter when the alleged abuse took place or whether a friar is active, retired, deceased, or left the Order) are addressed with utmost urgency and significance.
  • Upon receiving notification of a claim of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, the Province reports the allegation to the jurisdictional law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities.
  • The accused friar is immediately removed from all ministries, whether or not criminal charges are brought against the individual. At no time during law enforcement investigations, or an investigation conducted for the Province by independent investigators, is the friar restored to ministry.
  • Dioceses, parishes, and ministries where the friar served are notified about the claim; and individuals with information on the abuse claim, or any other allegation, are asked to contact the authorities and the Province.
  • Independent therapy and counseling care are made available to the abuse survivor.
  • The accused is provided with therapy and remains under close supervision.
  • If allegations are substantiated, the friar is permanently removed from all ministries and ministerial sites and is placed on a closely supervised safety plan.
  • All friars and those in formation undergo mandatory annual training and education programs on the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

If you have been subjected to sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of St. John the Baptist Province or if you have information about someone who has been abused by a friar, the Province advises that you first report it to your local law enforcement authorities. Then contact Fr. Michael Chowning, OFM, director of the Province Office for the Protection of Children, at 513- 721-4700, ext. 3214, or at childprotection@franciscan.org. Your call and the information you provide will be confidential to the extent civil law allows. The Province is mandated under its zero-tolerance policies and procedures to report allegations and claims to local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.

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