Bishop W. Shawn McKnight issued the following letter on Sept. 13, 2019, to be distributed to parishes the weekend of Sept. 14-15:
Dear Faithful of the Diocese of Jefferson City,
On Friday, the Missouri Attorney General issued a report based on a 13-month investigation on clergy sexual abuse of minors in the four Roman Catholic dioceses of Missouri.
The report is more than 300 pages long and involved a review of records of more than 2,000 priests serving in Missouri since 1945.
It provides a list of 163 priests who had reports of an offense against a minor under Missouri Criminal Law, and it reports that the Attorney General will refer 12 priests now removed from ministry to local prosecutors for criminal investigation and possible prosecution.
Whether any prosecutions will result from these referrals remains to be seen, but, as with any investigation by law enforcement, the Diocese of Jefferson City will be fully cooperative.
The report finds that since 2002, when the US bishops enacted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, “the four dioceses in Missouri have implemented a series of reforms that have improved their response to, and reporting of, abuse. This report recommends additional reforms to strengthen oversight and protect victims from future abuse.”
It is my sincere hope this report assists the Church in achieving our goals of accountability and transparency, while respecting the legal standards for privacy of all affected by the report.
Let me be clear: we must understand sexual abuse, whether by clergy or others, is still a present reality in society. This requires a proper vigilance and the necessity to follow through with safe environment protocols to ensure our children and youth grow and flourish in a healthy Church environment and a societal culture that protects the vulnerable.
To all survivors who suffered clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Jefferson City, and to their friends and family members, I offer you an apology from the depths of my heart.
My staff and I are carefully reviewing the report and its recommendations. I am grateful for what each of you do to make our communities safe, healthy and holy places, and for your encouragement and support of these efforts. We can only be a holy people, a people who are better together, if we have confidence in our priests and if you trust me as your shepherd.
May Mary, the Immaculate Conception and our Mother, intercede for us as we strive to follow her Son and Our Lord, Jesus.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend W. Shawn McKnight, S.T.D.
Bishop of Jefferson City