Assignment Record – Bishop Joseph Vincent Sullivan

Summary of Case: Joseph Vincent Sullivan was ordained a priest of the Kansas City, MO diocese in 1946. He was elevated to auxiliary bishop in 1967, then went on to become Bishop of Baton Rouge in 1974, where he served until his death in Sept. 1982. Sullivan was accused in three separate lawsuits in 2004, 2005 and 2007 of the sexual abuse of three different minors. The abuse is said to have occurred from 1969 through 1982. Two of Sullivans accusers said he sexually abused them on trips to Hawaii, where Sullivan owned a condo with other Kansas City priests. At least one of the accusers was a minor seminary student. All three suits resulted in settlements.

Ordained: 1946
Ordained Bishop: April 3, 1967
Appointed Bishop of Baton Rouge:
Aug. 8, 1974

Died: Sept. 4, 1982


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


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

1948 Catholic University Washington DC    
1948 1951 Holy Cross Kansas City MO 3/3, 2/3 Holy Cross had a school with 328-338 students.
1951 1953 St. Aloysius Kansas City MO 2/3 St. Aloysius had a grade school with 232-202 students, and a high school with 140-134 students.
1951 1953 Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kansas City MO    


O'Hara was succeeded by John Patrick Cody (1956-1961), followed by Charles Herman Helmsing (1962-1977)

St. Joseph's Hospital Kansas City MO In residence.  
1953 1957 Superintendent of Schools Kansas City MO    
1957 1967 Old St. Patrick's Kansas City MO 1/3, 1/2, 1/1 Sullivan was made a Monsignor in 1957.
1957 1974 Diocesan Consultors Kansas City MO    
1957 1964 Diocesan School Board Kansas City MO    
1957 1967 Chancellor Kansas City MO   Sullivan was appointed Auxiliary Bishop March 4, 1967, and was consecrated April 3, 1967.
1959 1966 Bureau of Information Kansas City MO    
1959 1967 Liturgical Commission Kansas City MO Sullivan is listed under "Liturgical Apostolate for Sacred Music" 1962-1967  
1959 1967 The Catholic Reporter Kansas City MO Vice-President  
1967 1974 Auxiliary Bishop Kansas City MO    
1959 1974 Council of Administration Kansas City MO    
1959 1974 St. John's Seminary Board Kansas City MO Deputy of Seminary Discipline  
1962 1974 Parochial Consultors Kansas City MO    
1967 1974 Vicar General Kansas City MO    
1967 1974 Our Lady of Good Council

Kansas City

Sullivan was accused in a 2005 lawsuit of the sexual abuse of a minor during trips to Hawaii, from 1969-1977.



Bishop of Baton Rouge was Joseph Vincent Sullivan (1974-1982)

1982 Bishop of Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge

Sullivan was accused in a 2004 lawsuit of having sexually abused a 17 year-old boy in 1975. As a result, a high school named after Sullivan was renamed. Bishop Muench said the allegations were credible.

In a 2007 lawsuit, a man accused Sullivan of sexually abusing him from 1978-1982, when the man was a teen-aged minor seminary student. Sullivan's accuser was a student at a Baton Rouge minor seminary and, when it closed, he transferred to a seminary in Corpus Christi, TX. He said Sullivan would visit him in Corpus Christi, and that abuse occurred on trips with the bishop to New York and Hawaii.


Sullivan was appointed Bishop of Baton Rouge Aug. 5, 1974.

Sullivan owned an condo in Hawaii with other Kansas City priests and vacationed there every July from 1974-1982.

Sullivan died Sept. 4, 1982


Source: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1947-1974)

Church Settles Suit, BR Diocese to Rename High School, By Barbara Schlichtman, Advocate [Baton Rouge, Louisiana], November 11, 2004
Baton Rouge Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Claim Involving Late Bishop, Will Rename High School, Associated Press, carried in The Charleston Gazette [Baton Rouge LA], November 11, 2004
Sullivan Name to Change Next Year, Bishop's Move Stuns Parents, Students, By Charles Lussier, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), November 11, 2004
Secrecy Clouds Sullivan Case, The Advocate [Baton Rouge LA], Downloaded November 19, 2004
Late Bishop Accused of Abuse, By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, November 26, 2004
Sullivan High to Be Renamed St. Michael, By Charles Lussier, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), January 8, 2005
Judge: Dioceses Must Turn over Records in Abuse Lawsuit, Man Says He Was Victimized at Minor Seminary, By Denise Malan, Caller-Times, April 15, 2009
SNAP Statement, April 16, 2009
Ruling in Sex-abuse Lawsuit Involves Former Auxiliary Bishop from KC’s Catholic Diocese, By Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star
April 18, 2009
Dioceses of Corpus Christi, Baton Rouge Settle Abuse Lawsuit, Baton Rouge Settle Abuse Lawsuit, Caller Times, October 13, 2009
Dioceses Settle Case of Abuse by BR Bishop, By Joe Gyan Jr., The Advocate, October 15, 2009
Sex-Abuse Settlement Involves Former Auxiliary Bishop with KC Diocese, By Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, October 16, 2009
Activist Group Criticizes KC Bishop over Sexual Abuse Issue, By Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, November 6, 2009
Accused U.S. Bishops,

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 Sullivan'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 Nov. 1, 2012