"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dear Bishop Kemmme

“It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed.”

~Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel

Dear faithful Catholics of The Diocese of Wichita, KS,

The list of priests recently released by Bishop Kemme is nothing but a smoke screen.  The priests named are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, guilty.  They are, as the Bishop points out, dead or retired.  What this means is that there are priests in active ministry within the Diocese of Wichita who have 'secret files.'  The priests with secret files may have failed psychological evaluations.  They may have a dozen complaints against them which were not accompanied by compelling evidence.  If your pastor has a secret file, you will not know until a victim with hard evidence comes forward.  In the meantime, your children are exposed to predators.  

Your Bishop cares far more about protecting the reputation of his Diocese and his priests than he does about protecting your children.  

Read what follows before you sign your kids up for Catholic schools or Totus Tuus summer programs in 2020.

August 9, 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing regarding a complaint of abuse I made against a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, and the manner in which this complaint was handled. 

In 1998 I caused myself to miscarry a pregnancy, and was raped by the father of the child while I was recovering from the self-induced abortion.  I sought the counsel and aid of a priest (Rev. XXX) of the Diocese of Wichita, who was also my philosophy teacher at the high school I attended (XXX, Wichita, KS).  The priest insisted that I break off ties with the young man immediately, but did not encourage me to share this information with anyone except himself.  He insisted that I had not been raped, or even date raped.  He insisted that I was at fault for having been a willing partner on plenty of occasions, and therefore I had no right to call one unwilling occasion a rape.  He didn’t want me to consider reporting this to anyone.

Over the course of 18 months, this priest created in me an extreme emotional dependency upon himself.  After several months of meeting me in secret, the priest attended a Project Rachel retreat as a chaplain.  When he returned from the retreat, he told me that he had gone on the retreat to experience his own healing.  He felt that he was the father of my child, and that he was my father.  He felt that he was truly my father, not just my spiritual father.  He had experienced the retreat as a parent, and told me of a vision of my child he had received.  He told me he had named the child.  He regularly talked to me about this, and about his relationship with this child.

From the very first time I spoke with him in the confessional, he insisted on sitting in such a way that our bodies were touching, and he often touched me with his hands, or held my hands against his face while we talked.  He kissed me passionately on at least 2 occasions.  He was verbally and psychologically abusive, especially on the occasions when I indicated a desire to discuss these matters with anyone other than himself.

This verbal abuse increased when I began dating another young man at the beginning of XXX.  I used this new relationship to wean myself away from this priest, and stopped meeting him completely by April of that year.  I graduated in May of XXX and left for college in July.  I attempted to commit suicide in September of XXX, but without any conscious connection to the abuse I had recently escaped.

In January of XXX, I began to have flashbacks to this period of time while attending a Virtus safe environment training in the Diocese of Wichita.  As a result, I felt compelled to share information with my pastor, who then helped me begin an official complaint with the Diocese of Wichita. 

The Bishop of Wichita at that time was Michael Jackels, and the Vicar General of the Diocese was Msgr. Robert Hemberger.  Despite the support of an entire committee of lay people, the diocesan victims assistance coordinator, and the diocese’ recommended psychologist, my complaint was not considered by the Bishop and the Vicar General to be credible.  The priest was never put on administrative leave.  He was not investigated or asked to submit to any form of psychological evaluation. 

The Vicar General shared with me that the priest had other less serious accusations against him, most of them from the following school year.  He shared with me that this priest had failed a psychological evaluation shortly after the timeframe of my complaint, which resulted in his being pulled from his teaching post and sent to a country parish.  He maintained that all this was only circumstantial evidence, that my story was just a story, that the burden of proof was all on me, and that he and the Bishop both suspected me of having an ulterior motive in making a formal complaint against this priest.  I asked him to tell me what ulterior motive I might have, but he refused to do so.  He also told me that if I chose to share any information with the press, that information about me could be leaked as well, and that he would not hesitate to destroy my reputation in the community. 

Despite the insistence on the part of the Vicar General and the Bishop that my complaint was not credible, the priest in question was forced to resign immediately from his role as Director of Totus Tuus- the now national youth catechetical program he himself had founded in 1987.  He was reassigned to an even smaller parish in a more rural area of the Diocese.  I objected verbally to the Vicar General that if my complaint was credible, it should be treated as credible, and if it was not, then any disciplinary action on the part of the Bishop was inappropriate.  This objection was never addressed by the Vicar General or the Bishop. 

The entire process was closed within 6 weeks of the initial complaint.  After the case had been closed, I submitted a statement recounting the events of XXX-XXX as best as I could recall them.  That statement is supposedly included in the file kept by the Diocese of Wichita regarding this complaint.  I freely admit that details here relayed may not agree with the details of that statement in some ways.  That original statement was written under great stress, in haste, before I had fully processed or even fully remembered all of the events that had transpired those XXX years ago.    

It continues to disturb me that the priest in question, Rev. XXX, was not objectively assessed, in any way, by any means, as a result of my complaint.  It continues to disturb me that the lay people in the Diocese of Wichita had a belief that these complaints would be handled according to established and published policy, and yet that policy was ignored.  It continues to disturb me that this priest has remained in good standing with the Diocese of Wichita, and that he has had uninterrupted access to young people in the community.  I am making another attempt to bring my concerns to light out of a concern for the young people of the Diocese of Wichita. 

(Jane Nihil)  

January 4, 2018

Bishop Carl A. Kemme
424 N. Broadway
Wichita, KS 67202

Dear Bishop Kemme,

First, I’d like to apologize for canceling our appointment of November 7.  I very much wanted to speak with you, but I needed some time to think through what, precisely, I wanted to communicate.

Hopefully you can understand, at least a little, what happened to me twenty years ago.  I was a young girl, isolated from my family, and I made a string of bad decisions.  I chose to go to a priest for help, to discuss things, because I was weighed down with shame.  I asked for counsel under the Seal of the Confessional because I was mortified at the thought of anyone finding out about the things I had done.  I wanted my secrets kept.  But the priest I chose took advantage of my isolation and my desire for secrecy.  When I told him I had been raped, he discouraged me from reporting this, because he said it was my fault.  He fantasized himself the father of my lost child.  He touched me and kissed me in the Confessional, as well as in his classroom where we frequently met alone.  I won’t rehash all the details, Bishop, since you have them already. 

I would like you to know that I was told parts of the contents of Fr. XXX’s personnel file.  I was told that after I graduated from XXX High School in XXX, enough complaints were made against him, about his words and actions in and out of the classroom that he was pulled from his teaching post.  I was told he was sent for a psych eval as a result of these complaints.  I was told the results of this evaluation included psychosexual immaturity.  I was told this caused him to be moved from XXX to XXX parish in XXX.  I was told he was allowed to remain director of Totus Tuus youth program despite the seriousness of these results.

I’ve been told “everything” has been handled as it ought to be.  Nevertheless, I cannot rest my conscience knowing someone else could be hurt in the future.  I cannot rest my conscience wondering if there are people, even one person, suffering in silence with wounds so deep that they feel inescapable and unhealable.  If there is even one person who might be inspired to seek help and healing, to share their story, I cannot rest my conscience.  There might be a person who has lived bound by shame and fear and a conviction that his or her story is worthless because he or she has no “proof.”  And if there is more than one, maybe there are four.  And if there are four, maybe there are a dozen.  And how many sad stories of abuse committed behind closed doors will it take before that body of information cannot be ignored?

Nine years ago I questioned Msgr. XXX, then Vicar General of the Diocese of Wichita, why my complaint against Fr. XXX resulted in his being moved from XXX to a smaller, more rural parish (St. XXX in XXX).  I asked the Vicar General why he was forced to retire from Totus Tuus.  Why, I asked, if my complaint wasn’t creditable, were these particular responses made?  Why was Fr. XXX never placed on administrative leave when the entire community has, and had, the expectation that such a leave was the very first thing that would happen when a complaint is made?  Even if no civil or canon laws were broken, the way my complaint was handled in 2009 was and is still a violation of the trust which members of this community have in their Church leaders- their bishops, priests, and laymen and women.

Strictly speaking, morally speaking, I have fulfilled my obligation.  I have given the information I have to the people responsible for doing something with said information… the people responsible for the safety of the members of the Body of Christ… to you, the Shepherd of the souls of the diocese where this priest ministers. 

These are the questions I feel I must ask.


Jane Nihil