Enid, Oklahoma — Two priests with ties to Enid and northwest Oklahoma are among 11 priests found to have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, in a report released Thursday.
The law firm of McAfee & Taft released the report of its independent investigation into how the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City handled and responded to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests dating back to the 1960s.
Archbishop Paul Coakley commissioned the report last August, after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed clergy abuse of more than 1,000 victims by more than 300 priests there, dating back to 1947.
McAfee & Taft's completed 77-page report identifies 11 priests who faced substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors between 1960 and 2018. Those 11 were identified from examination of records of 545 priests who served in the archdiocese during that period.
The 11 priests identified in the report are Thomas Behnke, David Armstead Cowden, Stephen Cude, Mathias Faue, David Imming, Francis Mantica, James Mickus, Rocco Perone, Edward Prather, Francis Rapp and Benjamin Zoeller.
At least two of the priests named in the report, Imming and Mickus, have ties to the Catholic community in Enid. No charges have been filed against Imming or Mickus.
In 2003, Oklahoma City attorney Philip Schovanec filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese, then-Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and Imming.
The lawsuit stated Imming, who was assigned to churches in Enid and Alva, was forced to retire following another sexual abuse complaint filed by a different young male parishioner involving the same period of time that Imming allegedly abused Schovanec.
McAfee & Taft, in their review, found in early 1992, "it appears that there was an allegation of attempted child sexual abuse raised against Fr. Imming, though there is no written record created by the Archdiocese identifying the alleged victim or circumstances, and there is no record of any investigation being performed."
Imming was sent to a pastoral center for diagnosis and treatment in February 1992, according to the report, but continued serving as a priest when he returned.
From 1992 to 2002, recommended follow-up on Imming's case by the archdiocese was never documented, according to the report.
In April 2002, Imming was permitted to retire to St. Mary's, Kan., and his faculties to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City were rescinded effective June 18, 2002.
Another allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Imming was received in May 2003, according to the report, but was not documented in Imming’s priest file.
In 2009, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City settled its lawsuit with Schovanec.
In October 2010, Beltran contacted Imming, according to the report, "in light of concerns raised by the Archdiocese of Kansas City ... to address concerns that Fr. Imming had been hiring minors from the local high school in Saint Mary's, Kansas ... for a landscaping/handyman business operated by Imming at the time."
Imming, a former priest at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Enid, subsequently agreed to be and was laicized, or removed from the priesthood, on June 10, 2011.
In 2002, when Mickus was pastor at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Enid, an adult alleged Mickus sexually abused him when he was a teenager and young adult, some 20 years before in a former parish.
Mickus was removed from ministry at that time but was reinstated in March 2003 after it was reported by Beltran that an archdiocese review board determined there was insufficient evidence for his removal.
In its report, McAfee & Taft found Beltran misled the public about Mickus and the allegations, when Mickus was reinstated in 2003.
"During our interview with him, Archbishop Beltran admitted that his March 14, 2003 statement was materially false and misleading," the report stated. "Archbishop Beltran agreed that the press release created the false impression that the Review Board had (a) found the allegation against Fr. Mickus to be unsubstantiated; and (b) approved of his decision to reinstate Fr. Mickus.
"In reality," the report continued, "the Review Board said it had lingering concerns and was therefore unable to issue findings or make a recommendation as to Fr. Mickus’ suitability for ministry.
"There is no evidence in the file or from our witness interviews that the Archdiocese conducted an investigation into the alleged victim’s allegation," the report stated.
In 2005, during a defamation lawsuit brought by the alleged victim, audio tapes, which McAfee & Taft found to be "authentic and accurate," were produced that the report states McAfee & Taft believes "support the alleged victim’s allegation that he was sexually abused as a minor by Fr. Mickus."
According to the report, there is "no evidence that the Archdiocese took any action on the audio tapes until more than a year after receiving them in June 2005, when Archbishop Beltran learned in November 2006 that the alleged victim was discussing the existence of the tapes/transcripts in public."
Efforts were launched by the archdiocese to remove Mickus on the basis of "psychic illness," but those efforts were stopped in 2007 and Mickus was allowed to remain an active priest until his suspension in November 2018. Mickus remains in a suspended status, according to the report.
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