via Wikimedia Commons
The Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
An elderly priest was set to be honored by St. Louis' Catholic seminary during an alumni event yesterday — despite the fact that the priest has been accused of sexually abusing several adult women. It was only the advocacy of his victims that led to the seminary removing the priest's name.
Initially, the schedule
posted online for the alumni event at the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury included a list of jubilarians, or priests celebrating their 50th anniversary since ordination. One of the priests listed was Fr. George A. Seuferling, who was ordained with the class of 1956.
However, Seuferling is currently in the process of being defrocked. He was first suspended from public ministry in 2011, and three years later the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced
that it had further restricted Seuferling's practice of ministry after receiving "two credible allegations of inappropriate conduct." Seuferling, who retired in 2001, was limited to performing weddings and funerals for family members.
In February 2016, the Archdiocese issued a second announcement
about Seuferling. Noting that his suspension was connected to "conduct inconsistent with priestly celibacy," the Archdiocese stated that it had since received other substantiated allegations of misconduct and was petitioning the Holy See to officially remove Seuferling from the priesthood. The process of defrocking, or laicization, can take years.
Apparently, all this was news to the Kenrick seminary. In emails provided to Riverfront Times
, one of Seuferling's alleged victims found herself playing the role of watchdog over her own abuser. (The victim asked that her name not be published.)
Seuferling had raped her in 2002, she wrote in an email dated October 3.
"During my painful ordeal of reporting Fr. George, I have repeatedly come across instances in which Fr. George was being honored in some capacity, either by local communities or the greater institutional Church itself. He continued to say Masses after he was suspended. He has repeatedly shown that he has no respect for his suspension. I am shocked and saddened that your seminary would honor him."
To its credit, the seminary responded that same day with an apology. Seuferling's was name was removed from the list of jubilarians.
In an emailed response, Kate Guyol, the seminary's Development Director, revealed that a family member of another of Seuferling's alleged victims had reached out to the seminary to protest his inclusion in the event.
"Until I received these emails, we had no record in our development office database of these allegations," Guyol wrote. "I have since added this important information to our records. We will not make this mistake again."
In a later email, Guyol explained that the seminary vets the status of individual alumni by checking with other members of the ordination class. In this case, the particular classmate had neglected to mention Seuferling's troubles.
Guyol wrote: "While this has been a good process in the past, it appears that we must do more in the future (like searching all of the jubilarian names online) to prevent honoring such an individual. This will be our plan moving forward."
In an interview by phone, the woman who emailed Kenrick on October 3 expressed frustration with the Archdiocese in Kansas. Her previous efforts to pursue criminal charges against Seuferling were thwarted by Kansas' five-year statute of limitations for rape, a law that has since been amended
She is adamant that the institutions associated with Seuferling need to be warned of his abusive past.
"It's hard. I feel like I’m the one who has to watch him," she says. "The Archdiocese told me that they would take care of this, and they're not. It's been going on for many years. They still haven't told people about what he’s done."
Seuferling's name appears in the official list of priests
maintained on the website of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. There is no mention of the abuse allegations. He is described as "retired."
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com