Suit filed against former St. Joseph priest
James Urbanic acknowledges he ‘acted inappropriately’
St. Joseph News-Press
February 8, 2012
A civil suit has been filed against a former St. Joseph priest who was removed from public ministry last June.
The Rev. James Urbanic has been accused of molesting a boy in the mid-1970s at St. Francis Xavier, where he was the associate pastor, and at Bishop LeBlond High School, where he was a religion teacher. The victim was a student.
The priest was removed from active ministry by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood after two victims, including the one who filed suit Wednesday, came forward with allegations that were found to be credible. In June, Rev. Urbanic acknowledged the abuse in a statement, stating “early in my priesthood I acted inappropriately.”
According to a statement from Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the diocese, Rev. Urbanic has since been under the supervision of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, a religious order for which he’s been a member since he became an ordained priest in 1971.
The civil suit against Rev. Urbanic was filed Wednesday in Buchanan County and names both ministries as plaintiffs.
Rev. Urbanic is alleged to have inappropriately touched the victim when he was 15, during one-on-one basketball games and in his rectory.
However, the victim has only recently put together fragmented memories of the alleged abuse.
“During one of these occasions, Fr. Urbanic invited him to lay on the bed so the Priest could admire his body,” the suit alleges. “Urbanic laid on the boy and fondled him, rubbing his body against the Plaintiff.”
The suit also claims officials allegedly knew of additional abuse and victims as early as 1975, but no action was taken.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the victim is now in his mid-50s and lives out of state. The man decided to file suit even after Rev. Urbanic was suspended from the ministry to protect other potential past or future victims, she said.
SNAP is also calling on Bishop Robert Finn to come to Bishop LeBlond, a school that has employed two known “predator priests,” to encourage any potential victims to come forward.
“Actions are what protect the kids. We’re still right back at the beginning that this victim had to file a civil lawsuit to demand accountability,” Ms. Dorris said. “Finn’s a powerful man in this diocese. He can do these things.”
The diocese is encouraging any person who has information about sexual abuse of a child, either past or present, to make a confidential report to law enforcement and the ombudsman, Jenifer Valenti.
Rev. Urbanic also served at St. James in Liberty, Mo., and Sacred Heart in Warrensburg, Mo.