On the recommendation of the Diocesan Review Board, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight on Dec. 15 released an updated list of priests who have been removed from ministry in this diocese due to credible allegations of violations of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The three priests are: Don Greene, deceased; Mel Lahr, removed from ministry because of a credible allegation of violation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People; and Robert Duesdieker, whose removal from ministry now results from a credible allegation of violation of the Charter.
The Charter, approved by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002, provides consistent, verifiable norms for ensuring that all of the Church’s environments are safe for children and others who are vulnerable.
Bishop McKnight on Nov. 8 released to the public the names of the 33 priests and religious brothers who have been credibly accused and/or removed from ministry in the diocese since its founding in 1956, as well as the amount of money spent on settlements, legal fees and other costs associated with the abuse crisis. This information is posted on the diocesan website at https://diojeffcity.org/bishop/making-connections/statement-on-release-of-names/.
Duesdieker, who had been placed on administrative leave in 2016, was included on that list as one of four who had been removed from ministry in the diocese “out of concern for the safety of our youth.”
According to the bishop’s Dec. 15 statement, Duesdieker, who had been removed out of concern for safety, “has now been determined to be credibly accused of abuse.”
Before releasing the updated list, Bishop McKnight sent a letter and updated list to be read at all Masses Dec. 15-16 in the diocese.
The list and his statement were then released to the media and disseminated through social media and the diocese’s Internet websites.
The three men were added to the list after the Diocesan Review Board on Dec. 5 made a recommendation that the allegations against them be deemed credible.
“After considering all the testimony, I accept the Review Board's recommendation and deem these allegations credible,” said Bishop McKnight.
The eight-member Diocesan Review Board, soon to be expanded to 25, is charged with advising the bishop on handling any allegations of abuse or noncriminal violation of the Charter by a clergy member.
The board includes mostly laypeople from a broad array of relevant backgrounds, including law-enforcement, the judiciary and the legal profession, medicine, counseling and education.
“I am grateful to the members of the Review Board for their expertise and commitment to our Diocese’s efforts to provide safe, holy and healthy environments for our children, young people and vulnerable adults,” Bishop McKnight stated Dec. 15.
He said the actions that brought about the updating of the list bring him great sorrow.
“I humbly and sincerely offer my deepest apologies to those who have been abused by clergy and religious,” he said. “I also offer my condolences to them, their families, friends and communities. We want to provide care for those who have been harmed.”
He pointed out that while only one on the list has been criminally convicted, the Church holds a much higher standard for those who serve its people holding a sacred trust.
“The solemn vows we take when we are ordained or enter religious life call us to higher standards of conduct,” he stated. “As of today, there has not ever been a credible accusation of sexual abuse of a minor against any clergy or religious now serving in the Diocese of Jefferson City.”
He reiterated that there have been no credible accusations of sexual abuse of a minor made against any clergy or religious now serving in the Diocese of Jefferson City.
He defined “credible,” as used by him and the Diocesan Review Board, as “whether based on the available information, an allegation of abuse is more likely true than not true.”
He noted that even with these new credibly accused, the most recent reported case of physical sexual abuse by clergy in the diocese occurred in 1997.
Since then, there have been two credible allegations of violations of the Charter, one involving inappropriate use of social media, and the other involving Internet pornography depicting minors.
All who were credibly accused have been removed from ministry. Some have been returned to the lay state. One is in prison. About half of the rest are deceased.
He insisted that preferential care must be extended to all survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.
“As your bishop, I pledge to put the care of victims, their loved ones and their communities first and foremost,” he said.
He encouraged anyone who has been abused by a priest or religious brother or sister to report it to law enforcement and to Nancy Hoey, the diocese’s victims assistance coordinator.
She can be reached at (573) 694-3199 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.