Msgr. Thomas J. O'Brien

Summary of Case: O'Brien has been accused of sexually abusing boys in dozens of lawsuits. The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese claims it first received a complaint about O'Brien in 1983. O'Brien denied the abuse when confronted and was kept in ministry. Some former altar boys and alleged victims claim they reported O'Brien to the diocese in the 1970s. The earliest known allegation is from 1961, and the youngest victim is said to have been 7 years old. One alleged victim suicided at age 14. Along with fellow priest, Thomas Reardon, O'Brien's modus operandi is said to have been to ply boys with alcohol and marijuana and to show them pornography. He would use threats to silence them such as "you'll be kicked out of the church, your family will abandon you, and you will go to hell." The abuse is said to have occurred in parish rectories and during weekend trips to O'Brien's lake house north of Kansas City. O'Brien was a prominent priest in the diocese with several prestigious positions, including Superintendent of Schools. He was removed from parish ministry in 1983 after an allegation surfaced and was sent to treatment in New Mexico and Washington, D.C. He returned to the diocese in 1984 and worked part-time as a hospital chaplain until he was removed in 2002. At about that time five men accused him in a lawsuit of molesting them as children. He is believed to still be a priest in Dec. 2011.

Ordained: 1950

Retired: 1994


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Kansas City bishop was Edwin Vincent O'Hara (1939-1956)

1954 St. Agnes Springfield MO 3/3, 2/3 St. Agnes had a grade school with 340-354 students, and a high school with 150-153 students.
1954 1955 Catholic University Washington DC    
1955 1958 Holy Trinity Kansas City MO 2/2, 3/3 Holy Trinity had a school with 172-203 students.


The diocese was redesignated Kansas City-St. Joseph Aug. 29, 1956.

John Patrick Cody replaced O'Hara (1956-1961)

1957 Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools Kansas City MO    
1957 1959 Diocesan Moderator of High Schools Kansas City MO    


Cody was succeeded by Charles Herman Helmsing (1962-1977)

1966 Legion of Decency Director Kansas City MO   O'Brien was elevated to Monsignor status in 1961.
1958 1964

St. Pius X Home
Priests' residence, 4232 Greenwood Place, Kansas City, MO. Circa 1960.

Kansas City MO Chaplain This orphanage had 22-13 boys and 20-6 girls.
1959 1964 Diocesan School Board Member Kansas City MO    
1959 1969 Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Kansas City

There have been reports that O'Brien was molesting children in the early 1960s.

In a lawsuit that was settled in 2007, O'Brien was accused of having sexually abused a 14 year-old boy in 1967.

1961 1968 St. Pius X High School

Kansas City

In a 2008 lawsuit, a man accused O'Brien of having sexually abused him 1961 at a Catholic High School. The man said O'Brien abused him at least five times, and told him it was a strategy to keep [the boy] from masturbation.

MO Principal St. Pius X had 451-605 students.
    St. Joseph Orphan Girls' Home        
1962 1968 Diocesan Office for Ceremonies Kansas City MO    
1964 1971 St. Patrick's Kansas City MO 1/3, 1/4 St. Patrick's had a school with 416-355 students.
1969 1971 Superintendent of Catholic Schools Kansas City MO    


John Joseph Sullivan followed Helmsing as Kansas City-St. Joseph bishop (1977-1993)


St. Elizabeth's


Kansas City

O'Brien was accused in a 2004 lawsuit of having sexually abused five boys during his time at this parish. The abuse is said to have occurred in church rectories and at a house at Lake Viking, which is north of Kansas City. O'Brien bought the house in 1971. The boys are said to have been plied with alcohol and marijuana. The lawsuit also said that O'Brien gave a St. Elizabeth's boy marijuana and pornographic movies. Some of the boys were as young as twelve.

In another 2004 lawsuit a man claimed that O'Brien and Reardon sexually abused him from 1970-1975, after giving him alcohol and drugs. The man said also that the two priests pressured him for the next 29 years to have sex with them, and to party like "the old days". The accuser said he told his parents during the time of the abuse, but they didn't believe him.

A 2005 lawsuit was filed by three more men, who said O'Brien sexually abused them in the 1970s, and gave them alcohol and porn. One man said the abuse started when he was 12 years-old and working at the St. Elizabeth rectory.

The diocese settled in 2008 with a man who said O'Brien and Reardon sexually abused him 1976, when he was 16 years old. A friend had persuaded the boy to attend church at St. Elizabeth's.

A 2008 lawsuit accused O'Brien and Reardon of sexually abusing a boy beginning in 1979, when the boy was seven years old. The accuser said the abuse started in the St. Elizabeth's rectory while his mother was in another room receiving marriage counseling. The accuser also said that O'Brien gave him and other children alcohol, porn, and money to buy drugs.

A man in a June 2008 lawsuit accused O'Brien and Reardon of touching his leg suggestively while he was fixing the ceiling fan in the Lake Viking home. The man would have been around 19 years old at the time.

In Feb. 2011 a man filed suit, accusing O'Brien of sexually abusing him when he was 11 years-old and a student at St. Elizabeth's school.

MO 1/3, 1/4

St. Elizabeth's had a school with 611-545 students.

Also accused in the lawsuit were Revs. Thomas M. Reardon and Joseph Hart. O'Brien and Reardon were said to have "partied" with the boys, and O'Brien is said to have at times gotten so drunk he would have the boys drive the car back to Kansas City. There are also reports that O'Brien and Reardon sexually abused boys together. Hart went on to become bishop of Cheyenne, WY.

The diocese may have heard accusations against O'Brien and Reardon as early as 1972. One former St. Elizabeth's parishioner said his mother made a complaint to auxilliary bishop George Fitzsimons in the 1970s, but Fitzsimons did nothing. Another man said that after O'Brien tried to grope him as a teen, he called and wrote Bishop Charles Helmsing about it, but received no response. The boy then contacted Fitzsimons, who responded in a Nov.1979 letter that he would talk with O'Brien and Reardon, and asked the boy to forgive the two priests.

1981 1983

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Sexual abuse allegations against O'Brien began to surface during this time. When confronted by diocesan superiors, O'Brien denied any wrongdoing.

In Sept. 2011 a man filed suit, accusing O'Brien of sexually abusing him and three of his friends, when he was 10 years-old and the friends were altar boys at Nativity. O'Brien is said to have told the boys that if they told, "number one, you'll get kicked out of the Catholic Church. Number two, you'll go straight to hell and number three, your parents will disown you." One of the boys suicided at age 14, in 1983.

In a Nov. 2011 lawsuit, a man accused O'Brien, along with Rev. Michael Honhart and Rev. Thomas Reardon, of sexually abusing him from 1980-1984, when the man was between 9 and 12 years old. The abuse is said to have occurred in the Nativity rectory, sacristy, the confessional, O'Brien's car, and at Lake Viking. O'Brien is said to have given the boy alcohol, marijuana and pornography. In addition to forcing the boy to engage in oral and anal sex with him, O'Brien reportedly forced the boy into sexual acts with other boys, while O'Brien watched. O'Brien also is said to have told the boy that if he told he would be "kicked out of the church, abandoned by his family, and would go to hell."

MO 1/2

Nativity of the BVM had a school with 280-284 students.













Honhart has been accused of sexually abusing at least three boys.




Oct. 1983 June 1984 Sabbatical Leave       O'Brien was sent to New Mexico and Washington D.C. for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
1984 2002 St. Joseph Health Center Kansas City MO Chaplain  


Raymond James Boland succeeded Sullivan (1993-2005)

1994? St. Thomas More Kansas City MO

3/3, 4/4, 2/2

In residence

St. Thomas More had a school with 444-506 students.
1994 2002 Retired Kansas City MO  

Address given 1994-2000 is 11281 Oak, Apt. 101, Kansas City, MO. His 2000-2002 address was 615 E. 117th St. Kansas City, MO, which is very near St. Thomas More.

Per news reports, O'Brien retired from his chaplaincy position at St. Joseph's Health Center in 2002, when five people came forward with accusations that he had abused them as minors. They were not same five who accused him in a 2004 lawsuit.

2002 2011   Kansas City MO  

O'Brien is not indexed in the Directories after 2002.

He is believed in Dec. 2011 to still be a priest.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1951-2002), Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections
Two-Thirds of Bishops Let Accused Priests Work, By Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002
Lawsuit Accuses Three Priests of Sexual Abuse, By Kevin Murphy and Judy Thomas, Kansas City Star, January 22, 2004
More Accusations against Priests, By Dan Curry , The Examiner [Missouri] , January 22, 2004
Wyoming Bishop, Missouri Priests Named in Abuse Suit, By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, February 6, 2004
Lawsuit Accuses 2 Priests of Pressuring Sex Abuse Victim, [Kansas City MO], June 1, 2004
Cases around Country Show Theft-Abuse Link Alleged Victims Say They Often Received Lavish Gifts from Priests, By Michelle Nicolosi, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 30, 2004
Three Men Sue Retired Priest, Alleging Sexual Abuse, By Kevin Murphy, Kansas City Star, August 26, 2005
Abuse Suit against Former Priests Settled,, April 10, 2007
Diocese Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit, By Joe Lambe, Kansas City Star, April 11, 2007
Lawsuits Alleging Abuse Are Nearer to Trial, By Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, November 24, 2007
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Pays $45,000 Settlement, By Joe Lambe, The Kansas City Star, January 16, 2008
Statement of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, My Fox Kansas City, June 19, 2008
New Lawsuits Filed against Clergy, By Mark Morris, Kansas City Star, June 19, 2008
New Lawsuits Accuse Priests of Abuse, By Mark Morris, Kansas City Star, June 26, 2008
The Ghosts of St. Elizabeth: for Kansas City's Catholic Sex-Abuse Victims, This Was a Parish of Pain, By Peter Rugg, The Pitch, October 9, 2008
Yet Another Lawsuit Alleging Child Abuse Filed against Kansas City Priests, By Peter Rugg, Peter Rugg, February 17, 2011
Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Retired Catholic Priest, By Tony Rizzo, Kansas City Star, February 18, 2011
Metro Man Files Lawsuit against Priests Claiming Sexual Abuse, By Tess Koppelman, Fox 4, September 1, 2011
Parents File Wrongful Death Suit against Diocese, Priest, By Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, September 6, 2011
Statements from the Diocese and SNAP, Fox 4, November 1, 2011
Springfield Clergy Abuse Victim Speaks Out, By Barbara Dorris, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, November 30, 2011
The altar boys’ secret, BY JUDY L. THOMAS, The Kansas City Star

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates O'Brien's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 16, 2012