The Kansas City Star may not have been officially listed as a party in the recent high-profile clergy abuse trial in Kansas City, but the credibility of the Star was certainly on trial. And by all accounts, it lost.
A splashy, three-part series in 2011, entitled, "The altar boys' secret," by the Star's Judy L. Thomas, relayed the shocking charges of a man named Jon David Couzens, who claimed that an abusive priest, Msgr. Thomas O'Brien (who died in 2013), had forced Couzens and three other altar boys thirty years earlier to perform sex acts upon each other and upon him only minutes before Mass was to begin at the Catholic school where the boys attended.
And according to the Star, Couzens claims that this episode happened not just once, not twice, but on three separate occasions.
Color me skeptical: Not when it comes to the Catholic ChurchThe notion that an abuser would set up multiple forced orgies with four minors immediately prior to the start of Mass would strike most as incredible or, at the very least, implausible. So the question immediately arises: What do the other three alleged victims of O'Brien's pre-Mass forced orgies have to say about Couzens' claims?
Well, the first other alleged victim is Brian Teeman, who died of a suicide in 1983. The second alleged victim is Chuck Caffrey, who died in a car accident in 2000.
That leaves the only other alleged victim still living, Jeff Barlow. But Barlow completely rejects Couzens' wild story and vehemently denies ever being abused by O'Brien or anyone else.
Appearing at the recent trial in Missouri, Barlow forcefully asserted, "With God as my witness and without a doubt, I was never abused."
In other words, the only person alive today who can corroborate Couzens' wild story denies that it ever happened. Yet when the Star's ace reporter Judy Thomas spoke with Barlow, and Barlow denied that such repeated group orgies had occurred, Thomas did not become the least bit skeptical of Couzens' claims.
And when Barlow testified at trial earlier this month, he offered his opinion about the Kansas City Star's journalistic integrity and ethics. Barlow declared:
"I was infuriated because it was clear that The Kansas City Star was not interested in the truth. It was like I was discounted."
Barlow also offered an opinion to the plausibility of repeated group molestations just moments before Mass was to begin. Barlow testified:
"This idea that in this short period of time you're going to molest four boys, swear them to secrecy and then walk into Mass is ridiculous."
The Kansas City Star's lower bar for the Catholic Church
Thomas' reporting just demonstrates how low the bar is for the Star to trumpet any story alleging abuse by a Catholic priest. In her never-ending zeal to bludgeon the Catholic Church, Thomas forged ahead with her story of "Four young lives, innocence lost," despite the fact that only one of the four actually claimed something happened, and the only other living alleged victim claims it didn't. (Couzens has also claimed he was abused by a second priest as well. And in addition to the alleged four-at-a-time group orgies before Mass, Couzens also claims that O'Brien abused him individually in the confessional, in the church basement, and in O'Brien's own bedroom.)
(To be precise, Barlow has indeed said that he believes that it is very possible that the abusive O'Brien could have molested Couzens and others individually in separate episodes. However, Barlow has always been adamant that Msgr. O'Brien "absolutely" never abused him, nor did he witness the priest ever actually abuse anyone.)
We also want to cite the Star's Mary Sanchez for one of the most vulgar and bigoted pieces we have read in a while. In a rambling and wild-eyed article written shortly after the trial, Sanchez, who wholeheartedly embraced Couzens' claims of group orgies, asserted that the Church had somehow been "forgiving" to the admittedly abusive O'Brien.
And in the course of lambasting the Church, Sanchez also claimed, "Federal laws mandating that certain people must report suspected child abuse have been around since the mid-1970s. They always included clergy" (emphasis added).
No, they haven't, Mary. You made that up. Read the federal law, and please issue a correction to your readers for your indisputably incorrect statement of fact.
[NOTE: In his case against the Church, Couzens had sought over $10 million. Yet moments before a jury was to weigh in on the credibility of Couzens' claims, Couzens agreed to be part of a $9.95 million settlement with approximately 31 other accusers. In the end, Couzens apparently accepted far less money than what he originally sought.]