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Lawrence priest suspended after child sex abuse allegation

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Article last updated at 9:53 a.m. Tuesday, May 3:

A former pastor at Catholic parishes in Lawrence and Eudora and on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus has been suspended from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

According to March 25 issue of The Leaven, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, the archdiocese learned on Feb. 28 that Father Michael Scully had been accused of sexual abuse. Upon notification, the archdiocese “relieved Father Scully from public exercise of priestly ministry” until an investigation is complete.

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Scully served as pastor at Lawrence’s St. John the Evangelist Parish in the 1980s and 1990s. From 1995-2001, Scully served as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hays. He then headed a Denver-based order of Capuchins until approximately 2007 before returning to Douglas County where he was pastor of Holy Family Parish in Eudora as recently as June 2021.

Most recently, he was leading services at the Haskell Catholic Campus Center, Tekakwitha House, whose Facebook page featured “reflections” from Scully as recently as November 2021. He is currently a member of the St. Conrad Friary of the Capuchin Franciscans, located at 745 Tennessee St.

The archdiocese said that it immediately reported the allegation to local law enforcement and began its own “investigation and evaluation” by the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board. Neither the Lawrence Police Department nor the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office returned messages asking about the status of the allegation or whether either agency was investigating the matter.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has called upon Catholic officials in both Kansas and Colorado, including the archbishops who oversee the parishes where Scully served, to reach out to anyone who might have “information or suspicions” about the former priest, pastor and high school administrator.

Scully has built his career on working with young people, tapping into pop culture through music and movies to make a connection. In a 1998 interview with National Catholic Reporter, Scully talked about getting his start as a high school teacher in the 1960s, and how he was panicked about the best way to get his students interested in a religion class.

The answer, he said, was to talk to the first about what they were interested in, which at that time seemed to be music. He decided to take that music and weave it into discussions, frequently disagreeing with his students but always being open to their opinions.

“I accept where everybody is,” he said in the 1998 interview. “I’m radical in a nice sense.”

He also likened working with youth as similar to missionary work in other countries.

“You go into their culture, into what they’re saying, and you work with it … try to figure out exactly where they’re coming from,” he said in 1998.

In October, BishopAccountability.org cited a report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that it had opened 122 cases based on 215 tips regarding clergy sexual abuse in Kansas Catholic dioceses.

The KBI set up a Catholic Clergy Taskforce in 2019 offering an email address and hotline to receive reports of abuse. Investigators look not only into current allegations, but also past allegations determining who the report was made to, and what type of investigation followed.

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In the March 25 Leaven report, the archdiocese said Scully denies the allegations and plans to cooperate with investigators. Part of that investigation will come from the Independent Review Board, which will “make a recommendation to the provincial minister regarding the credibility of the matter as it regards Father Scully.”

“We encourage anyone with knowledge about any misconduct by any church volunteer, employee, religious or clergy member to contact civil authorities first, and then make a report to our confidential report line at (913) 647-3051 or online at: www.archkck.org/reportabuse,” according to the Leaven’s statement.

Scully said via email late Monday that he and his lawyer were preparing a response to an email requesting comment for this article.

Father John Riley, Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, did not respond to a request for comment.

KSHB was the first outlet to report on the allegation on Monday.

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Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator Merrill Evans: Make an appointment with Merrill by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link.
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.
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