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Suspended priest is laicized

Pope Francis has dismissed a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City who has been on leave since 2019 after he was accused of inappropriate conduct involving minors.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City received notification from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that Pope Francis has dismissed Geoffrey Brooke from the clerical state. Brooke had voluntarily requested this action. This dismissal returns Brooke to the status of a lay person and removes from him the duties and obligations of priesthood. He can no longer present himself as a priest or celebrate the sacraments. The dismissal also severs his relationship with the diocese.

In March of 2019, Bishop McKnight placed Brooke on administrative leave after receiving reports of inappropriate contact involving two minors. In keeping with its legal obligations, the diocese notified the Missouri Children’s Division hotline and local police about the allegations. 

After the completion of the civil investigations, the diocese conducted its own investigation and shared the findings with the Diocesan Review Board, an independent board established in keeping with the safe environment requirements of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. After receiving the Review Board’s recommendations, Bishop McKnight accepted them and forwarded the findings on September 16, 2019, to the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

During the ensuing lengthy disciplinary process, Brooke remained on administrative leave and was not allowed to function publicly as a priest. Prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary process, Brooke informed Bishop McKnight of his desire to be dismissed from the priesthood.

The decision by Pope Francis to grant Brooke’s dismissal has ended all ongoing disciplinary processes by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith prior to issuing a final determination of guilt or innocence. With the belief that the Charter was violated, Bishop McKnight has added Brooke’s name to the diocese’s publicly-published list of credibly accused priests, available at diojeffcity.org/safe-environment. Therapeutic care is available to the minors who reported the inappropriate contact.

“I want to recognize the courage of the minors who came forward and thank them and their families for their patience during this lengthy process,” said Bishop McKnight. “This has been a difficult and painful time for all involved. We continue to offer our prayers and pastoral care for all who have been harmed. Our parishes should be sanctuaries where people find healthy, life-giving relationships. We must continue to be vigilant, learn from the past and move forward in faith.”

Brooke was ordained in 2015. He was an associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City when he was placed on leave. He had previously been assigned to St. Patrick, Sacred Heart and St. John parishes in Pettis County; Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia; and St. Mary’s Parish in Milan and Unionville. 

Any person who believes he or she has been the victim of misconduct involving a priest, deacon or other church personnel of the diocese is encouraged to contact appropriate law enforcement officials, as well as the victim assistance coordinator for the diocese, Jacqueline Baldwin at 573-694-3199 or reportabuse@diojeffcity.org. For more information, visit diojeffcity.org/safe-environment.