The Catholic Archdiocese of OKC “has inconsistently and inadequately investigated allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the past,” according to a report released today that details accusations against 11 clerics who served the Catholic Church in Oklahoma since 1960.
Distributed by the law firm McAfee & Taft, the 77-page report reveals financial settlements made with victims, efforts to shield the accused from public scrutiny and a myriad of ways the alleged perpetrators accessed children for sexual gratification.
The report (embedded below) also comes one day after the Tulsa diocese released a list of 11 clerics “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.
Among other revelations in today’s report, investigators note that the Catholic Church paid $4.65 million in 2009 to settle allegations of sexual abuse in Oklahoma and Texas by the Thomas Behnke, who died in 2008. The website BishopAccountability.org attributes 30 different assignments to Behnke after his ordainment in 1949, including five in Oklahoma.
The Archdiocese of OKC hired McAfee & Taft to provide “a thorough, independent investigation” of alleged sexual abuse against minors from 1960 through 2018, according to attorney Ronald T. Shinn, Jr.
“It should be noted the Archdiocese was under no obligation to initiate this outside investigation, and that by doing so, it subjected itself to independent review and criticism of its past actions. While this investigation and our Report address difficult and painful issues, we hope the public will commend the Archdiocese’s transparency and accountability,” Shinn said in a press release. “As detailed in the report, some of the key findings of our investigation were the Archdiocese conducted inconsistent and inadequate investigations into past allegations of sexual abuse of minors, failed to follow its own policies and procedures in some instances, and had inadequate recordkeeping policies and systems that made it difficult to make informed decisions.”
‘Inadequate controls’ and failure ‘to take appropriation action’
The report’s table of contents lists several “findings” of failure on the part of the Archdiocese of OKC, including the following verbatim statements:
- The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has inadequate controls over its own records;
- The archdiocese of Oklahoma City has inconsistently and inadequately investigated allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the past;
- In some instances, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City failed to take appropriate action when presented with credible allegations that its priests had sexually abused minors;
- The Archdioceses failed to properly evaluate priests transferring to the Archdiocese;
- In some instances, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City failed to follow its own policies and procedures relating to allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Archdiocese of OKC report lists 11 names of clerics accused of sexual misconduct with minors and offers extensive rundowns of their backgrounds, which have been summarized here:
- Thomas Behnke: Behnke was accused twice of sexual abuse while in Oklahoma. The first, in 2002, was from a man who claimed to have been abused by Behnke when he was 13 or 14 years old. A second allegation was made in 2018 that included two victims. Behnke’s religious order paid $4.6 million to settle claims against him in 2009, according to the report. He died in 2008.
- David Armstead Cowden: Cowden faced allegations in 2002 and 2006 stemming from his practice of allowing young males to spend the night in the rectory. The diocese later advised Cowden not to spend time alone with minors. He died in 2015.
- Stephen Cude: The first allegations against Cude came in 1987 involving sexual misconduct with minors. When those allegations were brought to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, it declined to prosecute. Suspicions around Cude continued into the 1990s. He was officially removed from the church in 1998.
- Mathias Faue: A Benedictine monk and member of St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee, Faue was accused of sexual misconduct with minors and his superiors at St. Gregory’s were aware of those allegations, according to the report. In 1984, Faue was arrested while attending an X-rated film and exposing himself. In 1985, Faue was admonished for being too tactile with children in his care. Faue died in 1988.
- David B. Imming: Imming faced allegations in 1992 and again in 2002. In the report, it notes many records were missing from Imming’s file. He was removed from the church in 2011.
- Francis Albert Mantica: Mantica came to Oklahoma in 1965 serving in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Prior to that he had several short stops in New York and another as an Air Force chaplain. After allegations of sexual abuse were made against him in 1967, he was told to leave Oklahoma or be faced with criminal charges. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City received a second allegation against Mantica in 1996. Mantica died in 1997.
- James Mickus: Mickus was accused in 2002 of sexually abusing a teenage boy. The victim alleged the abuse continued into his 20s. Mickus later admitted to the behavior telling church officials he thought the boy was 18, and church leaders expressed confusion to law-firm investigators over whether they recalled their early-2000s conversations with Mickus about the situation. Mickus was suspended in 2018.
- Rocco Perone: Perone served in Texas as a priest beginning in 1958 until his retirement in 1988. During that time, Perone did mission work in Oklahoma. He was accused of abusing a boy in Portland, Oregon, in the 1950s. In 2004, Perone faced two more allegations of sexual abuse of boys while in Oklahoma. He was suspended in 2018.
- Edward Prather: Prather spent part of his career at Our Lady of Fatima in Nicoma Park. It was there where concerns were first raised about his behavior in 1988 after Prather had housed several young men at the church. More allegations of sexual abuse of minors surfaced in 1989. Prather went on to serve in Richmond, Virginia, and he died in 1996. In 2004, the Archdiocese of OKC received allegations of sexual abuse by Prather.
- James Francis Rapp: Rapp first faced allegations while working in Ohio in the early 1970s while teaching at a Catholic school. He left that job in 1973 for a five-year leave of absence. He moved to Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1990. Not long after, a letter was received accusing Rapp of abusing a boy in 1985. He also faced allegations in 1999 of sexual abuse on a young boy. Rapp was prosecuted in 2016 by the State of Michigan and sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison. Rapp has also been named in several lawsuits in Oklahoma that are still pending.
- Benjamin Zoeller: Allegations surfaced against Zoeller in the form of an anonymous letter in 1988 alleging he had entered into sexual relationships with at least two teenage boys at the parish where he worked. Another letter alleged he caressed the face of a teenage boy at an Oklahoma City mall. He retired in 2001 and was removed from the church in 2011.
Early Thursday evening, Archbishop Paul Coakley released a letter addressed to his “Brothers and Sisters in Christ.” Embedded below, the letter asks that anyone who “has been abused by a member of the clergy or anyone representing the Church” contact the Archdiocesan Pastoral Hotline at (405) 720-9878.
Oklahoma law requires anyone who suspects a child may be the victim of abuse to file a report with the Department of Human Services. The agency’s hotline is 1-800-522-3511.
“The long and the short of it is you trusted us, and we failed,” Coakley wrote. “Though we have made significant progress on many fronts since the 2002 publication of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, we must do better.
Coakley said he has “profound sorrow” for anyone abused by anyone representing the Catholic Church.
“I also am sorry for the complicity and negligence of those who failed to respond adequately to reports of abuse, for whatever reason, whether they are bishops, priests, deacons, religious or lay persons representing the church,” Coakley said.
Background of Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals
In 2002, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston found itself at the center of an investigation by the Boston Globe. The publication looked into abuse allegations of five priests who had been accused of sexual abuse by minors.
Tulsa diocese names priests ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse by Archiebald Browne
The scandal ultimately resulted in the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, and widespread investigations of priests at dioceses around the country. The Boston Archdiocese paid out nearly $100 million to more than 550 victims.
Wednesday, the Tulsa diocese released its report and a video from Bishop David Konderla, who offered apologies and noted “sorrow and shame.”
“It is my deepest hope that this publication will be a substantial step toward the healing of the survivors, their families and the church,” Konderla said.
The Tulsa diocese’s report listed 11 “credibly accused” priests and deacons, the majority of whom are dead.
(Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, to feature additional information. It was updated again at 6:25 p.m. to include a letter from Archbishop Paul Coakley.)