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Church clears Lawrence priest accused of sex abuse; law enforcement investigation status unclear

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A Lawrence priest has been “cleared” through an independent investigation following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

Father Michael Scully, former pastor at Catholic parishes in Lawrence and Eudora and on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus, was suspended from ministry following a Feb. 28 report to the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.

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The Lawrence Times has not received the statement from the Denver-based Capuchin Franciscans Province of Mid-America, but the Kansas City Star reported on its contents Wednesday. An outside investigator hired by the church to review allegations brought against Scully and the province’s independent review board found that the claims against Scully were unsubstantiated, the Star reported.

“When an allegation of sexual abuse is brought to our attention, we recognize the pain experienced by the victims and their families, the accused, the entire Church community, and our own community of brothers,” the statement read, according to the Star. “We continue to hold in our prayers all those involved in this case.”

Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether the Lawrence Police Department or the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the report. The archdiocese said that it immediately reported the allegation to local law enforcement.

“The department typically does not comment or provide details about sexual assault investigations, unless an arrest has been made. Also, we would not confirm the existence of a sexual assault investigation by searching an alleged suspect’s name,” Lt. David Ernst of LPD said via email Tuesday.

The archdiocese said Scully had denied the allegations and planned to cooperate with investigators.

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 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 the 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.

Scully said via email late Monday that he and his lawyer were preparing a response to an email requesting comment, but we have not received anything further.

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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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