‘It’s embarrassing’: Accuser blasts Kansas regarding Catholic Church report

Susan Leighnor says her abuse began when she was just 10 years old inside a Catholic school in...
Susan Leighnor says her abuse began when she was just 10 years old inside a Catholic school in Hutchison, Kansas.(Susan Leighnor)
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 3:11 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Susan Leighnor said her abuse began when she was just 10 years old inside a Catholic school in Hutchison, Kansas. She claimed the priests threatened her she would go to hell if she talked about it.

Leighnor was hopeful a four-year investigation by the KBI and Kansas Attorney General’s Office would expose crimes and lead to accountability for those who preyed on children or covered it up. She calls the newly-released report an embarrassment for the state of Kansas.

“I was really disappointed with that, and embarrassed coming from the state of Kansas because I expected better coming from the state of Kansas,” said Leighnor. “This is the result that they drop on a Friday night at five o’clock? The quality is not there. It’s embarrassing. They just throw it out and then scampered away, or slithered away is probably a better description.”

The report reveals more than 100 victims of abuse were interviewed and investigators initiated 125 criminal cases. It led to 30 charging affidavits but not prosecutor-filed charges. The report indicates some of the crimes were outside of the statute of limitations and priests may have died. The report did not release the names of credibly accused priests leading many to question what the point of the report even was.

“Outrageous. It’s very disappointing. I think the statute of limitation laws need to be changed in Kansas,” said Leighnor.

The advocacy group SNAP, which represents accusers of Catholic priests, is also disappointed in the report. They said what happened in Kansas was similar to what happened in other communities like Boston: abusive priests were shuffled around and protected; parishioners were lied to.

SNAP released a lengthy statement:

“Victims were treated with disregard, subjected to biased and inefficient investigations, and forced into silence through the use of non-disclosure agreements and fear of retribution. Our hearts break for the victims and their families throughout Kansas who were subjected to this kind of treatment.”

Accusers have largely fought for accountability in civil courts. It’s unclear how much the Catholic Church has paid out in settlements in Kansas, and many lawsuits have non-disclosure terms.

A key attorney representing survivors, Rebecca Randles, previously told KCTV5 the Kansas City metro area hovers around $24 million in payouts.

SNAP is calling on the Catholic Church to release the names of those credibly accused and for Kansas law to change regarding the statute of limitations. It also calls on lawmakers to make clergy and church staff mandatory reporters.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas responded to the report saying they fully cooperated with investigators.

“The trauma experienced by the victims is clear from the KBI report,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann, leader of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. “You cannot read this report without your heart breaking.”