| LOUISVILLE (6/10/03)
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By Andrew Wolfson email@example.com
There are no visible scars and no eyewitnesses. Many of the major figures are dead, and some incidents are alleged to have occurred as long as five decades ago.
So how do the 154 plaintiffs who have sued the Archdiocese of Louisville over the past three months prove allegations that they were molested by 21 different priests - and that church officials knew about it and covered it up?
How does the archdiocese disprove those claims while adhering to a pledge made by Catholic bishops in national meeting in Dallas last month to reach out and apologize to victims of sexually abusive priests?
Lawyers who have both brought and defended such cases against the Catholic Church in the United States say it's unlikely that either will happen in a courtroom. They expect most of the cases to be settled.
"Nobody wants to try 150 cases - least of all the judge,'' said Patrick Schiltz, who defended hundreds of abuse cases for the Catholic Church until 1995, when he became a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. "It would take years.''
There is no official tally, but one expert estimates as many as 3,000 abuse claims have been made against Catholic priests and dioceses in the United States since the 1980s. Yet a Courier-Journal review of news accounts and legal data bases shows only 14 cases that have gone to trial since then, including one in Northern Kentucky.
The church rarely opts to go to trial because it realizes that "it is almost unheard of for a jury to find a plaintiff was lying,'' said Schiltz and others, including Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney who said he's handled more than 600 such cases.
Specialists in such litigation agree the Archdiocese of Louisville would face a more daunting task in court than the plaintiffs.
"If the church wants to prove there was no abuse . . . that's like trying to prove you didn't speed in 1992,'' said Schiltz, who is now associate dean of the St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.
Because the alleged damage to each plaintiff is different, the cases can't be tried together as a class action. Even the 63 suits that name one priest - the Rev. Louis E. Miller - probably can't be consolidated, lawyers say.
But to get a sense of damages, a judge may direct the parties to try a few sample cases in which different levels of abuse are alleged, Schiltz and other lawyers said.
Then the court would encourage them to settle the rest of the suits, using those verdicts as benchmarks. A judge also could order mediation.
The sheer number of lawsuits against the archdiocese could aid the plaintiffs' cause, lawyers say; even if the cases are tried separately, lawyer William McMurry, who represents most of the plaintiffs, said he will call to the witness stand all the plaintiffs who allege they were abused by the same priest.
That might be particularly effective in the cases that name Miller as well as the Revs. Arthur L. Wood and Daniel C. Clark, who are named in 31 and 13 lawsuits, respectively.
(Miller also has pleaded innocent to a 42-count criminal indictment alleging sexual abuse.)
The archdiocese's trial lawyer, Ed Stopher, wouldn't talk about strategy, but other lawyers said he might use the volume of cases to suggest that some plaintiffs weren't injured and simply jumped onto what they thought would be a gravy train of settlements.
To prove they were abused, the plaintiffs must make their cases largely through the strength of their recollections, the experts say.
"The richness of texture and detail about their experience and the place it occurred makes plaintiffs believable,'' said Anderson.
A plaintiff's testimony also might be bolstered by a former teacher or parents, who recount how "Johnny had perfect grades and attendance in third grade but bad in fourth. That suggests something happened to Johnny,'' said Schiltz.
First line of defense
For its part, the Archdiocese of Louisville first will explore whether claims made against it are barred by the statute of limitations or on other legal grounds, said Brian Reynolds, its chief administrative officer.
No priests are named as defendants. All of the lawsuits hold the archdiocese liable, claiming it knew about the alleged abuse and did nothing.
Reynolds said the archdiocese's approach will reflect "concern for victims and their need to be encouraged and supported in their healing,'' as demanded in the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
But he said the archdiocese in many ways is like any other defendant. "It is important to recognize that we are stewards of the gifts given by the Catholic people to carry out the mission and ministry of the church,'' he said. "We will defend our rights.''
Stopher, the archdiocese's lawyer, said he expects to take depositions from every plaintiff. Such sworn examinations have been used in cases elsewhere to expose allegations that couldn't be true, Schiltz said.
For example, he said he won dismissal of a suit against a bishop alleged to have molested someone on a church balcony in the 1960s; Schiltz said he proved the balcony wasn't built until the 1970s.
In another case, a bishop was able to show he was in Rome working on the Vatican II reforms during the time a plaintiff alleged the bishop had abused him, Schiltz said.
The archdiocese probably will try to undermine the credibility of plaintiffs who made mistakes in their original complaints and subsequent depositions, Schiltz said.
For example, in a May 23 lawsuit, Joseph A. Ball Jr. alleged that the Rev. Thomas Creagh made inappropriate comments when Ball went to him in confession, after allegedly being molested by another priest in the early 1950s - a decade before Creagh was ordained. In an amended complaint filed last month, Ball dropped Creagh from the complaint and instead named the late Rev. C. Patrick Creed. McMurry, who represents Ball, blamed the error on confusion over similar names.
Another tactic the archdiocese is expected to use stems from the fact that the bulk of the lawsuits cite allegations stemming from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Lawyers say the archdiocese likely will to try to show that church officials acted reasonably - based on what was known about pedophilia in those years - by sending priests accused of child sex abuse for treatment, then reassigning them to new parishes when doctors said they no longer posed a danger.
But a jury in Stockton, Calif., rejected that argument three years ago when it awarded $30 million to brothers James and Joh Howard, who had alleged that top church officials ignored evidence that the Rev. Oliver O'Grady was a pedophile as they moved him from parish to parish.
The award was later reduced to $12 million, and the case subsequently settled for $7.65 million.
In the largest verdict in a case that went to trial, 11 plaintiffs in Dallas in 1997 were awarded $119 million by a jury that found the men had been molested from 1977-1992 by the Rev. Rudolph Kos and that the church concealed information about him.
In the Kentucky case, the Diocese of Covington was ordered to pay $750,000 to John Secter, a veterinarian who claimed he'd been abused by a teacher at the Kentucky Latin School 17 years before he filed suit.
Upholding the verdict, the Kentucky Court of Appeals said the diocese knew that John Bierman was a problem long before Secter was a student, yet "took no action to discipline or sanction Bierman,'' to warn others, or to report the matter to police.
If the Louisville cases are settled, the Covington case might be an indicator of their value. McMurry noted that Secter was fondled through his clothes - as many of the Louisville plaintiffs contend they were - yet still was awarded a large amount.
On the other hand, the jury awarded Secter only $50,000 to compensate for his damages; the rest was for punitive damages - to punish the diocese and encourage it to clean up its act.
Schiltz and others say juries might be less likely to award punitive damages today, if they believe the church is following through on its promise to reduce sexual abuse in the church.
Pressure put on plaintiffs
Victim groups and plaintiffs' lawyers say dioceses across the country historically have played hardball by forcing plaintiffs to undergo grueling, multi-day depositions and hiring private investigators to root through their lives.
A lawyer for the Joliet, Ill., diocese asked a plaintiff who claimed he was paddled by a priest on his bare buttocks how it made him feel and whether he blamed himself, a local paper, the Daily Southtown, reported.
In Hawaii, a woman who sued the church after a priest was convicted of molesting her son was countersued by the diocese for negligence for letting her boys sleep over at the cleric's apartment.
In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law declared in court papers that "unspecified negligence'' by a then-6year-old boy and his parents contributed to any alleged abuse of the boy by a priest. The attorney for the plaintiff, now 24, called Law's position "appalling.''
Secter said the Covington diocese didn't treat him "horribly bad.''
"Their private investigators interviewed friends of ours in their front yards,'' he said, "but they didn't go through our garbage.''
Reynolds said the Louisville archdiocese will use any defense suggested by Stopher, who is known as aggressive trial lawyer, but "to suggest a child was negligent and somehow caused their own abuse would be absurd and simply wrong.''
Asked if the archdiocese supports giving fair compensation to plaintiffs if they prove they were abused and damaged, Reynolds said, "No money will erase the pain of child abuse.'' He also said that the archdiocese's offer of free counseling to victims "is central to our response.''
The only indication so far of the value the archdiocese puts on such cases comes from Mark A. Mays, who said that before he filed suit last month, he offered to settle for $250,000 and Reynolds responded with a $25,000 offer. Mays alleges he was molested by Wood in 1962 when he was a student at St. Athanasius.
Reynolds said the archdiocese won't comment on individual cases.
For his part, Stopher said he would treat the litigation like any other case. "I always try to be appropriate and civil with regard to all claimants and parties,'' he said.
But plaintiffs are likely to face painfully embarrassing questions, said Suzanne Cassidy, who represented Secter, as church lawyers explore whether problems they say were triggered by alleged abuse - depression or alcoholism or anxiety, perhaps - are real, and whether there are alternate explanations, such as sexual abuse by a relative.
In the Louisville cases, plaintiffs also must show the church knew about and concealed earlier abuse.
That's because they are relying on the ruling in Secter's case, in which the Court of Appeals said the statute of limitations - which normally would require minors to sue within five years of their 18th birthday - could be suspended, if there is evidence the defendant concealed wrongdoing.
That can be proved, the court said, by failure of a defendant to report child abuse as required by law.
Concealment can be proved most dramatically by documents showing that a defendant knew about an employee's wrongdoing.
In Secter's case, for example, the diocese's secret archive files showed the church returned Bierman to the classroom one time despite a bishop's misgivings that his pedophilia had not been cured and that he would continue to be a "problem.''
The Louisville archdiocese says it has no records showing that officials knew of sexual abuse allegations against Miller before 1989, and no records explaining why he, or any other priest, was transferred so often.
But McMurry argues that an exhibit attached to a lawsuit filed Friday shows that in Miller's case, the archdiocese concealed misconduct.
The suit cites a deposition given in a case filed against Miller by a niece, Mary C. Miller, in 1999. In the sworn statement, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said he couldn't recall any other lawsuits against Miller; but Kelly had been personally served with a suit that named the priest in 1990.
Kelly has said through a spokesman that he didn't remember the earlier case was a lawsuit because it was settled out of court. But McMurry contends in the complaint filed Friday that Kelly deliberately "lied'' to withhold knowledge about Miller's past.
Even without "smoking gun'' documents, Cassidy said McMurry and the other plaintiffs' lawyers could show that priests were moved frequently, at odd times of the year, to suggest they were transferred for improprieties.
McMurry said he has "lock-solid'' evidence that eight plaintiffs or their parents reported abuse by Miller to their school principal, parish priest or the archdiocese, and that 14 plaintiffs overall reported the priest who they say abused them.
But some of those reports may be shaky.
For example, McMurry cites Paul R. Barrett as a "whistle-blower'' for reporting alleged abuse by Clark at St. Rita School. In an interview, however, Barrett said he asked two priests to set up meetings with Clark but never told them why.
Still, lawyers say they expect the church to tread more lightly than in the past, given the bishops' admission in Dallas that abuse "and the ways in which we bishops addressed these crimes and sins, have caused enormous pain, anger, and confusion.''
Cassidy, Secter's lawyer, said, "I can't imagine that with the amount
of media exposure and public interest in this scandal that it would be
in the church's long-range interest to anger victims again.''
By Peter Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
[Photo Caption - Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly. Enlargeable thumbnails of the June 14, 1983 memo are also provided.]
In March 1983, Louisville Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly became aware that a local pastor had sexually molested a 15-year-old boy but allowed the Rev. Thomas Creagh to continue leading St. Albert the Great parish.
Two memos written for his own file, and initialed or signed by Kelly on March 9 and June 14 in 1983, show that the archbishop was fearful of church scandal and worked to keep the incident from becoming public.
More than 200 people have suits pending against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville alleging decades of sexual abuse by 34 priests, teachers and others associated with the church. Whether their cases proceed depends in part on their lawyers' argument that the state's statute of limitations should not apply because the archdiocese covered up the sexual abuse.
The memos show for the first time that the head of the archdiocese knew of an episode of child sexual abuse but allowed the abuser continued unrestricted access to children.
Kelly oversaw a confidential settlement in 1983 in which the archdiocese and Creagh agreed to pay the family of Gregory C. Hall $20,000.
Creagh is accused in lawsuits of sexually molesting Hall and three other boys between 1974 and 1983. One allegation accuses Creagh of abusing one of the boys at St. Albert after he was allowed to continue there by Kelly.
Creagh resigned last May as pastor of Holy Family Church after being accused of abuse in a lawsuit filed by Hall, of Louisville.
Hall alleges that on March 6, 1983, Creagh offered to give the boy a massage to relieve a sports injury. Hall alleged that Creagh masturbated him. Hall did not return phone calls seeking comment last night.
Kelly permanently barred Creagh from ministry in July 2002 -- enforcing a tougher policy adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops and effectively confirming he believed that Creagh had molested at least one child.
Kelly was unavailable for comment last night, according to Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese. Creagh also could not be reached for comment.
Reynolds said yesterday that there is little new in the memos, which are among the thousands of documents officials provided last month to lawyers suing the church over alleged sexual abuse.
''For many people in church leadership, the issue was to avoid scandal so as not only to avoid embarrassment but to avoid hurting the faith,'' Reynolds said. ''Far more effort should have been placed on responding to victims and preventing abuse, and particularly repeated abuse by priests, because in the long run greater scandal has occurred.''
Some alleged victims and one advocacy group said yesterday that they would begin a petition drive seeking Kelly's resignation based on the new information.
The memos show Kelly was concerned about avoiding scandal over the incident and preventing further revelations of abuse, which could bring ''more cases.''
Kelly said in the March 9 memo that Creagh was performing an ''excellent pastoral ministry'' at St. Albert. Kelly wrote that Hall's parents could ''destroy his ministry and harm the parish greatly if they make public accusations.''
Kelly also said in the June 14 memo that he sought the advice of officials from another archdiocese who advised that a priest accused of an ''overtly sexual'' incident ''should be removed from his assignment and sent out of the diocese.''
But Kelly concluded the memo by saying that he was keeping Creagh in the parish and that there has not ''been any s(c)andal so far.''
William McMurry, the lawyer representing Hall and about 200 other plaintiffs suing the archdiocese over alleged sexual abuse, said the memos are evidence of a cover-up and placing ''the rights of sexual predators above the health and welfare of the children of the church.''
McMurry provided copies of the memos to The Courier-Journal. The newspaper also obtained Creagh's personnel file through a records request to Louisville police after they investigated Hall's allegation last year.
Police declined to seek prosecution last year, saying that even if Hall's allegation were true, it would amount to a misdemeanor, which is beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.
Reynolds cautioned against comparing Creagh's case to that of a known repeat offender. ''It was perceived to be a single incident that was properly addressed,'' he said.
Reynolds noted that the archdiocese has never denied that on some occasions it kept priests in ministry after they sexually abused children.
He said that depending on the situation, such priests were sometimes barred permanently, sometimes placed on restricted ministry and sometimes returned to full parish ministry.
Reynolds acknowledged the archdiocese did not report the sexual abuse in the Hall case to police. All Kentucky citizens have been required by law since 1964 to report suspicions of child abuse.
But he noted that the attorney who negotiated the settlement for the Halls, Bruce Miller, was Jefferson County attorney at the time and was responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors.
Miller said last night that he believed that as county attorney he had been notified of the alleged incident. He said he told Hall's parents they had the option to bring criminal charges but that they declined out of concern for the possible impact publicity might have on their son.
Reynolds said that ''since the authorities were fully aware, because the county attorney was there, there was no need for the archdiocese to take further action.''
Reynolds added that in 1986, Creagh received a psychological evaluation by a Catholic therapeutic center in Florida known as the House of Affirmation and was deemed to be fit for ministry.
A copy of that evaluation, obtained by The Courier-Journal, confirms the positive evaluation -- but it also makes no mention of sexuality or ventures any opinion about whether Creagh posed a risk of sexual misconduct.
The release of Kelly's memos has prompted a group advocating for victims of sexual abuse, The Linkup, to schedule a news conference at archdiocesan headquarters today to launch a petition drive calling for Kelly's resignation.
Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, said the memos indicate ''Archbishop Kelly played an active role in covering up abuses in the diocese.''
Reynolds said Kelly would remain on the job to lead the church through difficult days.
''Kelly has taken several steps to respond to the crisis, including appointing a new review board of priests and lay people to investigate abuse cases,'' Reynolds said.
''Nowadays it would be done differently, no question about that,'' Reynolds said of the Creagh case. ''I do not agree with the assessment that nothing was done to address the situation at the time. Father Creagh was not removed and nowadays he would be.''
Kelly became archbishop of Louisville in 1982. The issue of clergy sexual
abuse, though known to church officials for decades, did not become nationally
known until 1985, when a Louisiana case became the first of several spectacular
cases to be reported.
In the March 9 memo, Kelly said that Creagh had met with him. The memo said Creagh had sexually abused Hall.
Hall reported the incident to his parents, who reported it to Hall's principal at Trinity High School.
''I told Father Creagh that I had to view this incident in what I regard is an excellent pastoral ministry at St. Albert's, and that it would not be my indication to remove him from office there,'' Kelly wrote.
''The parents could, of course, destroy his ministry and harm the parish greatly if they make public accusations. In that case, Tom would have to go.''
In a memo written June 14, 1983, Kelly said that while ''Father Creagh did not express remorse over the incident, he was clearly embarrassed at having to confess the incident.''
Kelly wrote that the Halls, their attorney, Miller, and his wife, Norma Miller, also an attorney, came to the archdiocesan offices on March 18 and ''demanded $150,000 in damages, the removal of Father Creagh from his parish, and absolute assurance that such an incident would not occur again in the archdiocese.
''. . . I found the demands extortionary, and the attitudes hostile and vindictive,'' Kelly wrote.
In his June 14 memo, Kelly wrote that he visited with officials from another archdiocese, who made several points, including that a priest involved in a sexual incident should be removed.
Kelly said he was advised that it was appropriate to offer the victim money for medical expenses but ''if the incident gets any publicity, it is likely that more cases will follow.''
Kelly noted that the archdiocese and Creagh reached an agreement to each pay the Halls $10,000. ''Father Creagh never had to be absent from the parish, nor has there been any s(c)andal so far,'' Kelly wrote.
Creagh is accused of sexual abuse in four of the lawsuits against the archdiocese. One of the plaintiffs alleged abuse in 1974; another in 1980. A third, Michael Sheehan, says Creagh molested him in December 1983 -- several months after the alleged incident with Hall. Sheehan could not be reached for comment last night.
''If Father Creagh went on and abused others after this event, then certainly
Father Creagh should never have been left at St. Albert's,'' Reynolds
acknowledged. ''That's the greatest tragedy of all.''
Text of Petition
Recently released church memos show that, in 1983, Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly knowingly allowed a priest who sexually abused a minor to stay in ministry. Fr. Thomas Creagh admitted to Kelly that he sexually molested a 15 yr old boy. Creagh is now accused in lawsuits of abusing a total of 4 boys between 1974 and 1983. One of the victims alleges abuse after the memo that allowed Creagh to stay in ministry.
What these memos demonstrate is utter disregard for the trauma and suffering experienced by the victims. Archibishop Kelly's objectives appear to be Deny, Dismiss, and Protect. Deny the seriousness of the criminal offenses. Dismiss the victims and their parents who report to the church. Protect the image of the church and careers of the priests at all costs.
Yes, 1983 may have been a different era, but never in Catholic history was the sexual abuse of children an acceptable practice. We should expect that a bishop would know right from wrong in 1883 or 1983 and put protection of children above protection of perpetrators, and above protecting the image of the church.
The Catholic Church was meant to be a church of the people, where bishops and priests serve the flock, not vice versa. As stockholders of the church, it is time to hold bishops accountable and replace those who have failed in their moral leadership.
Please sign this petition to support those who have been abused by priests in the Archidocese of Louisville. Healing begins with accountability, and assurance that the system will never allow these crimes to be repeated.
Please sign this petition as a first step to bring reform to a church
that has lost sight of its mission.
By Peter Smith email@example.com
As critics called for his resignation yesterday, Louisville Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly defended his decision 20 years ago to let a pastor continue working even though the priest admitted he molested a boy.
In a seven-paragraph statement released yesterday afternoon, Kelly said he kept the Rev. Thomas Creagh in parish ministry in 1983 because he believed that Creagh's molestation of Gregory C. Hall, a 15-yearold boy, was an ''isolated incident'' and that the priest ''did not pose a danger to anyone.''
But Kelly said he wouldn't make the same decision today, ''with the advantage of 20 years of knowledge about childhood sexual abuse and experience here and elsewhere. . . .''
[Picture of Kelly] [Photo Caption - Critics of Louisville Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly launched a petition drive yesterday calling on him to resign.]
His comments came after The Courier-Journal yesterday reported on two internal memos written by Kelly in 1983, that showed that Creagh told Kelly of the sexual abuse days after it happened and that Kelly decided to quietly keep the priest in his parish, where he had unrestricted access to children.
Two suits have been filed, including one yesterday, that accuse Creagh of sexual abuse after the 1983 incident.
Brandon M. Howard, 20, alleges that Creagh molested him between 1990 and 1997 while he attended St. Ignatius Church in Louisville, where Creagh was then pastor. In all, five people have accused Creagh of sexual abuse in lawsuits.
More than 200 people have suits pending against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, alleging decades of sexual abuse by 34 priests, teachers and others associated with the church.
Whether their cases proceed depends in part on their lawyers' arguments that Kentucky's statute of limitations should not apply because the archdiocese knew of the abuse and covered it up. Spurred by Kelly's internal memos, about a dozen people, including four plaintiffs suing the archdiocese, held a news conference outside archdiocesan headquarters on East College Street yesterday afternoon to launch a petition drive calling for Kelly's resignation.
The petition contends Kelly ''participated in the denial and cover-up within the Louisville Archdiocese and repeatedly put children in harm's way by exposing them to known abusers.''
Kelly oversaw a confidential settlement in 1983 in which the archdiocese and Creagh agreed to pay the Hall family $20,000.
The archdiocese has denied covering up abuse, and Kelly's spokeswoman, Cecelia Price, reiterated the archbishop's earlier statements that he planned to stay in office and work to resolve the abuse crisis.
Kelly's memos on the 1983 incident were among thousands of documents turned over by court order last month to more than 200 plaintiffs suing the archdiocese.
The archbishop's statement yesterday was critical of the way the memos had been released by William McMurry, a lawyer for most of those suing. Kelly said the documents, written to himself ''in the heat of the moment'' were being released out of context, but did not elaborate.
In the memos, Kelly wrote that he found Hall's parents and their lawyers to be ''hostile and vindictive'' and that they could destroy Creagh's ministry and harm the St. Albert the Great parish if they went public.
Kelly expressed regret yesterday for the pain of ''the Hall family as internal memos are published in the newspaper.''
''Unfortunately, what we are experiencing here is a legal battle,'' Kelly said. ''We have consistently communicated our desire for a mediated settlement with the victim/survivors who have brought lawsuits and our wish to bring healing to victims.''
One of those victims, Hall, joined about a dozen people at yesterday's news conference calling for Kelly's resignation.
''I hold him responsible'' for abuse by Creagh, Hall said. ''Father Creagh's a sick man. He needs to seek help.''
The archdiocese yesterday would not give out contact information for Creagh. He did not reply to a request for comment made through the archdiocese.
The protesters included Michael Turner, Mary C. Miller and Tom Weiter, who also have lawsuits pending against the archdiocese. Most others identified themselves as family or friends of plaintiffs.
''I was Catholic and want to be again,'' said Turner, who filed the first lawsuit against the archdiocese last April.
Bonnie Miles, who identified herself as a concerned Catholic, said she decided yesterday morning that Kelly should resign after reading his memos in The Courier-Journal.
Miles said she stopped attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption, where she said she is registered, about two months ago.
''It's just too difficult for me to go, and I'm a Catholic by choice,'' Miles said, noting that she had converted at age 18.
Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, a Louisville-based support group for survivors of clergy abuse, said she hopes thousands of people, including priests, will sign the petition.
She said the petition will be delivered to Kelly within a month. She said Catholics contacted her yesterday morning asking how they could get forms and take them to their parishes.
Archibald said the memos dispel the church's statements that it always tried to do the right thing in response to abuse.
McMurry, the attorney representing Brandon Howard, said the plaintiff could have been spared seven years of alleged abuse if Kelly had removed Creagh in 1983.
McMurry declined to provide contact information for Howard yesterday, saying it was not in his interest to be interviewed because he is suffering psychologically from the abuse. The lawyer said Howard broke off contact with Creagh when he was about 14.
In addition to Howard's suit, one filed by Michael Sheehan last year accused Creagh of abusing him at age 17 in December 1983 -- nine months after Kelly decided to keep the priest in ministry.
Creagh continued to lead parishes until last May when he resigned from Holy Family Church after Hall sued. Kelly removed Creagh from ministry in July, enforcing a stricter policy adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops that bars any priest who sexually abuses a minor even once.
He served most of his career in Louisville but served three years as a missionary to Alaska in the early 1970s and also worked from 1985 to 1987 in the Diocese of Venice, Fla., before returning to Louisville.
The newly released files on Creagh imply that Kelly informed Bishop John J. Nevins of Venice, Fla., about Creagh's background.
A July 15, 1985, letter from Nevins to Kelly cites the discussions among U.S. Catholic bishops about sexual abuse by priests. That year, bishops had received a major report warning them to deal seriously with the issue.
Nevins asked Kelly if he had any evidence that Creagh had received medical or psychological treatment.
''It would benefit us to have supporting evidence regarding the emotional health of any priest who has been charged or accused of immoral actions,'' Nevins wrote. ''. . . If any person(s) should be vindictive enough and plan to cause a priest more heartaches, we would be ready to come to his defense and support him in every way.''
The files do not include Kelly's reply. The only psychological evaluation of Creagh in the files, conducted in 1986 by the House of Affirmation therapeutic center in Florida, stated that Creagh was fit for ministry but made no mention of sexual issues.
Venice diocesan spokeswoman Gail McGrath said yesterday that no one has brought allegations against Creagh in Florida.
After Creagh was publicly accused last May, she said, the diocese posted notices in the two parishes where he served, encouraging anyone who had been abused to report to police, state child-protective services or the diocese.
McGrath said she could not comment on personnel files.
Staff writer Gregory A. Hall contributed to this story.
(Louisville KY) Courier-Journal
The Archdiocese of Louisville and representatives of 243 plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by priests, teachers and others connected to the church reached a settlement late today.
Details of the settlement were not immediately available. The agreement culminates four days of talks among the parties at the Jefferson Club in downtown Louisville.
The plaintiffs allege the church covered up sexual abuse during the past 50 years by dozens of priests and others associated with the church. Church officials deny any cover-up.
Jefferson Circuit Judge James M. Shake approved the mediation process for the lawsuits earlier this year, giving class-action status to the plaintiffs for purposes of trying to reach an agreement by Aug. 1.
Of the 254 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese since April 2002, 242
plaintiffs have joined class-action talks. One opted out, six have settled
and the rest filed lawsuits after the deadline for signing up for the
By Peter Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville agreed yesterday to pay $25.7 million to settle child sexual-abuse allegations made in 240 lawsuits naming 34 priests and other church workers.
The settlement total represents the second-largest payout in an abuse case for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It caps an intense, 14-month legal case that made Louisville one of the most embattled dioceses in the nation since the crisis over clergy sexual abuse began in January 2002.
The settlement, which is not covered by insurance, deals a massive financial blow to the largest religious organization in Louisville, which has already planned 34 job cuts and a $2 million budget cut in the fiscal year beginning in July in anticipation of an agreement. The archdiocese had $61.8 million in investments in June 2002, according to its most recent financial report, although church officials said that figure is considerably lower because of stock market declines.
[Photo Caption - Attorney William McMurry, second from left, was surrounded in his office by some of the plaintiffs he represented in the sex-abuse case, from left: Mary Miller, Mark Niemann, James Hess and Mike Turner. Photo By Durell Hall Jr., The C-J]
[Photo Caption - Reynolds: It's "premature" to speculate on financial impact on the archdiocese]
"The payment of $25.7 million will be very painful for the archdiocese," William McMurry, lead attorney representing the plaintiffs in the settlement negotiations, said. "The church has recognized through this agreement that they have an obligation to these victims."
At a press conference last night, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, had a message for the victims: "No child should ever have had to experience what happened to you. I promise that we are doing everything we can to prevent child abuse in the Church. I apologize for what we did or what we failed to do that led to your abuse. I hope that today's settlement is seen as a sign of our willingness to support you in your healing."
The money is to be paid in 30 days into an escrow account under the terms of the agreement, which still requires approval by Jefferson Circuit Judge James M. Shake, who is overseeing the cases, according to McMurry and the archdiocese.
The payments "will not be divided equally but will be apportioned based upon many factors that the court will determine," McMurry said. Court-appointed commissioners would make those decisions, he said.
[Photo Caption - "Now let's begin the process of healing." - Thomas Kelly]
Factors will likely include the number of times a plaintiff claims to have been abused, the victim's age at the time of the abuse, whether the archdiocese was notified of the abuse but kept the alleged abuser in ministry, and whether the abuse happened before or after the passage of a 1964 state law requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse to authorities, he said.
"The court will determine the methodology for apportioning the money to the victims," McMurry said. "It is unknown at this time what the precise methodology will be."
McMurry said last night he agreed in advance with his clients that he and his fellow attorneys would receive 40 percent of the payment, which he said is standard in a complex case.
He worked on the case with two associates and with the firm Oldfather & Morris, and he also negotiated on behalf of clients of other attorneys. He added that Shake would make the final decision on attorneys' fees.
McMurry and Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese, both looked fatigued as they shook hands at the conclusion of negotiations yesterday afternoon at the Jefferson Club, on the 29th floor of the downtown PNC Plaza.
"It has been an extremely demanding five days, with emotions running extremely high on both sides," McMurry said after wrapping up talks that began last week. The settlement was mediated in five days over the past two weeks by Nicholas Politan, a former federal judge from New Jersey.
"We are relieved for our clients that this tragedy can be put behind them, that they can begin the process of healing and move on with their lives," McMurry said. "This settlement speaks loudly to the credibility of each of these victims, and the victims can now hold their heads high."
The settlement was "in everybody's best interest," said Reynolds, who acted as lead negotiator for the archdiocese.
"While it's good to have a settlement, it is not good news the abuse happened in the first place, it is not good news it will take this amount of finances to respond to it, but the injuries need to be responded to," Reynolds said.
"The church has been asked to be accountable," he added. "I believe we've done so."
The legal battle also brought criticism of Kelly, who has faced calls for his resignation for putting known abusers in ministry. He has said he never knowingly put children at risk.
Kelly said last night he has no plans to retire before reaching his mandatory retirement age of 75 in about three years, saying it is his responsibility to deal with the crisis. Settling these cases is just the first big milestone, he said.
"It will take about three years to get things straightened out," he said. "I'm afraid we have a long way to go."
Sharing in paying the $25.7 million is the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, a Southern Indiana-based province of Conventual Franciscan priests and friars. The order was named as a co-defendant in 19 lawsuits accusing its members who worked in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Reynolds said the archdiocese and the province are not divulging how much each is paying toward the total.
The settlement will resolve the vast majority of the 254 lawsuits filed since April 2002. The suits allege sexual abuse over the past five decades by 35 priests, two religious brothers, three parochial school teachers and a volunteer coach.
Six suits were settled previously, while one plaintiff opted out of the settlement negotiations to pursue the case in court. A handful of suits were filed after the late April deadline for becoming part of the class-action settlement talks. Both sides expressed hope they could settle those soon.
None of the settlement money will come from church insurance, Reynolds said. He said that for various reasons, the church has not been able to collect on the policies, some of which were decades-old and did not cover sexual abuse. Some insurance money was available to pay the archdiocese's own lawyers only, he said.
That means that the Louisville archdiocese is paying out of its own pockets even more than the Diocese of Dallas did in 1998 in its record $30.9 million settlement with 12 victims of the Rev. Rudolph Kos. That settlement, made during an appeal of a jury award that was four times that amount, was partly covered by $19.6 million in insurance.
Reynolds said it is "premature" to speculate on the financial impact on the archdiocese — such as whether it will sell property, borrow money or resort to other measures that dioceses around the country have used to fund large payouts.
"We have been working hard to see if we could come to this" settlement, Reynolds said. "We did not spend a great deal of time working out all of the implications. That is some of the work we have to do next."
Reynolds said archdiocesan parishes and schools have separate finances from the archdiocese and should not be seriously hurt by the settlement, and he said he did not think the church would need to sell any parish property.
"We have a lot of confidence that our parishes will remain strong and vibrant," he said. "The impact on the organization of the archdiocese, however, will be significant" and its ability to provide some care and services will be affected.
The cuts do affect Catholic Charities, church administration and other offices. And the archdiocese has had to reduce grants and scholarships that go toward some struggling schools.
Kelly told the archdiocese's 200,000 Catholics that the past 14 months have been "terribly difficult and painful for all us. &elipse; However, I believe that with this settlement, we have begun to respond to the painful experiences that these men and women had as children and to seek forgiveness for the mistakes we have made."
The settlement does not contain an explicit admission of responsibility by the archdiocese for covering up the abuse, as the 243 plaintiffs had charged. The archdiocese had denied that claim in court documents.
But Reynolds said church officials "accept that the people who filed civil suits against the archdiocese deserve a response from the church and we have made our decision accordingly. It is absolutely clear &elipse; that many children were abused over the decades that have brought us this litigation, and it is imperative that we address that in every reasonable way. To spend the next five to 10 years doing in-depth discovery and analysis of people's lives and experience would only bring more pain on them and on the church."
The lawsuits began after The Courier-Journal reported on April 14, 2002, that the Rev. Louis E. Miller had been named in two sexual-abuse lawsuits in the 1990s and had just retired amid allegations of abuse.
An avalanche of accusations followed that report, which was cited as evidence in the lawsuits that followed. More than 90 people accused Miller in lawsuits of abuse between the 1950s and 1990, and Miller is serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 50 counts of molesting children in Jefferson County, and he awaits sentencing on 14 counts of molestation in Oldham County.
Three other current or former priests were also arrested, as were two former parochial school teachers.
In addition to Miller, a raft of other current, former and deceased priests were accused publicly since April 2002. Kelly permanently barred eight priests from public ministry after Catholic bishops voted in June 2002 to bar any priest from ministry for even a single case of abuse.
One of them, the Rev. Daniel Clark, awaits trial in Bullitt County on
criminal charges and has been accused in 19 lawsuits. He is accused by
more plaintiffs than any priest except Miller and the late Rev. Arthur
L. Wood, accused by 39 plaintiffs of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.
By Thomas C. Kelly, Archbishop of Louisville KY
Tonight, we are announcing that we have been able to reach a mediated settlement with the attorneys for 243 civil suits against the Archdiocese. With the help of a professional mediator and after five challenging and difficult days, we settled late this afternoon in the amount of $25.7 million.
I attended the first day of mediation and then entrusted the rest of the negotiations to Dr. Brian Reynolds, our chancellor, and our attorneys.
Before Brian describes the process, let me say a few things to the victims and to the Catholic people.
First, the victims. No child should ever have had to experience what happened to you. I promise that we are doing everything we can to prevent child abuse in the church. I apologize for what we did or what we failed to do that led to your abuse. I hope that today's settlement is seen as a sign of our willingness to support you in your healing.
And to the Catholic people. These past 14 months have been terribly difficult and painful for all of us — victims, priests and parishioners. However, I believe that with this settlement we have begun to respond to the painful experiences that these men and women had as children and to seek forgiveness for the mistakes we have made.
Our goals in the mediation process were threefold: 1) justice and fairness
for victims; 2) preservation of the mission of the church; and 3) protection
of parish savings and property. The implications of this settlement will
be tough for the Church, but I believe that we have accomplished these
goals. This Archdiocese has served the Commonwealth of Kentucky for nearly
200 years, and we will continue to serve. Now let's begin the process
By Laurie Goodstein
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville announced yesterday that it would pay a settlement of $25.7 million to 243 people who say they were sexually abused by priests, religious brothers and employees of the Kentucky archdiocese.
The settlement is the largest ever paid directly from the assets of a diocese in the two decades since people began confronting the Catholic church in court over sexual abuse by priests, both the plaintiffs' lawyer and an archdiocesan official said. It was also one of the quickest, reached after only five days of negotiations.
[Photo Caption - "These past 14 months have been terribly difficult and painful for all of us, victims, priests and parishioners," Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said.]
For Louisville, a small archdiocese with 200,000 Catholics, the extent of the scandal and the financial impact have been of enormous proportions. In an archdiocese with 115 active diocesan priests, the plaintiffs accused 34 priests, 2 religious brothers and 3 laypeople of abuse from the 1940's to as recently as 1997, said Dr. Brian Reynolds, the chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese.
Louisville was also home to what may be the worst serial abuser among the priests who have been called to account anywhere in the nation. Ninety of the plaintiffs said they had been abused by the Rev. Louis Miller, a retired priest who was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for child sexual abuse.
About three-quarters of the 243 plaintiffs said they had been molested by either Father Miller or three other priests.
"These past 14 months have been terribly difficult and painful for all of us, victims, priests and parishioners," Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said in a late-night news conference in the church's chancery. "However, I believe that with this settlement we have begun to respond to the painful experiences that these men and women have experienced as children, and to seek forgiveness for the mistakes we have made."
Pressure on the archbishop mounted over the past few months as documents that surfaced through the legal discovery process revealed that he had failed to remove abusers from parish work and denounced a victim's family.
Victims in Louisville were unusually well organized, holding candlelight vigils and starting a petition drive calling for the archbishop to resign. Yesterday, the victims' support group Linkup was holding a prayer vigil outside the chancery offices when it received word that a settlement had been reached.
"The real crime is what the church did by moving them around," said Mike Turner, 45, who last April was the first plaintiff to file a suit against the archdiocese based on accusations of abuse by Father Miller, in a telephone interview last night. "If you can't punish someone by putting them in jail, the only way to punish them is to take money from them."
To pay for the settlement, the archdiocese will cut programs and services and may have to lay off more employees, Dr. Reynolds said. Last month the archdiocese, already feeling the financial impact of the legal battle, announced that it had laid off 34 employees and cut its budget by $2 million.
"The impact on the Catholic community over the past 14 months was significant, with people feeling the pain not only for the victims but for the innocent priests and the Catholics who were being exposed to the criticisms of their church," Dr. Reynolds said. "So there was a high degree of motivation to reach a settlement."
Insurance will not cover the settlement costs because most of the cases were so old, Dr. Reynolds said.
In two decades of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church, there have been other multimillion-dollar settlements but none that required a diocese to use so much of its own assets, said William McMurry, the lawyer for most of the 243 plaintiffs. He said the Archdiocese of Louisville disclosed during negotiations that it had $48 million in cash assets, so this settlement represents about half.
In a telephone interview last night, Mr. McMurry praised Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly for not resisting a settlement, as other bishops have done. "They could have dragged this case out for many many years, but they demonstrated compassion that has never been demonstrated before in these cases," Mr. McMurry said. "They felt it was more important to reach out to these victims and to give them their dignity back."
Both sides agreed to mediation and mutually agreed on a mediator, Nicholas H. Politan, a retired federal district court judge from Newark. The judge is responsible for deciding what percentage of the settlement will be paid to the plaintiffs' lawyer, and no figure has yet been set, Mr. McMurry said.
In Boston, which has about two million Roman Catholics, settlements over sexual abuse have totaled about $50 million so far. Boston's Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned last December and apologized for his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in ministry.
Last night in Louisville, Archbishop Kelly said he had no plans to resign because he had listened to the wishes of the members of the archdiocess. "I believe that they've already spoken very clearly," he said.
Susan Archibald, president of the Linkup, the victims advocacy group
based in Louisville, said in a telephone interview: "The situation
per capita here has been about 10 times worse than Boston, and a lot of
people have been asking why. My answer is that there's been a severe failure
By Andrew Wolfson and Michael A. Lindberger
Some said the money would never take away their pain — and that they won't be satisfied until Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly resigns. But other plaintiffs who sued the Archdiocese of Louisville said the settlement announced last night will allow their healing to start.
"I am thrilled — them admitting guilt was worth more than any dollar amount," said Paul R. Barrett, a Shelbyville body-shop owner who claimed he was molested in 1981 by the Rev. Daniel C. Clark at St. Rita parish. "We are no longer alleged victims. We are victims."
Several said the case was never about money, but others said that the amount — $25.7million — will not be enough, considering that there are so many plaintiffs to divide it among. Still others said the amount gives credibility to their claims.
"In our society, unfortunately, money is the way we measure guilt, so the settlement gives some sense of satisfaction," said H. Douglas Dukes, 50, who alleged he was molested by the late Rev. Arthur Wood in 1966 at St. Polycarp parish.
[Photo Caption - Supporters of sexual-abuse victims took part in a candlelight vigil across from the Archdiocese of Louisville on East College Street last night. The daylong prayer vigil was attended by victims and their advocates. Photos By Durell Hall Jr., The Courier-Journal]
[Photo Caption - Jim Sullivan stood during a plaintiffs' vigil outside the archdioces chancery on College Street last night.]
Jeffery Koenig, a trucker who learned of the settlement as he was hauling motor oil from Chicago to Madison, Ind., said, "I think the archdiocese stepped up to the plate and did the right thing."
Koenig, who also alleged he was abused by Clark at St. Rita, said he thinks it is fair that the amount awarded to each plaintiff will be based on how many times they were abused, at what age, and other factors. "I wasn't looking to get rich," he said. "I was just looking for what was equitable for me."
Lead plaintiffs' counsel William McMurry said the archdiocese's decision to turn over more than half its liquid assets lent "dignity and credibility to each of the 243 plaintiffs.''
John. L. Mills, 49, a heavy-equipment operator from New Albany, Ind., who claimed he was molested in the early 1960s by two priests and a housekeeper at the Cathedral of the Assumption, said: "This was never a monetary issue for me. It was about bringing closure to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child."
Although McMurry said the court would have to approve attorneys' fees, Mills said he would have no objections to McMurry and other lawyers getting the 40 percent contingency agreed up when he and others filed their lawsuits last year.
"They were always there for us," Mills said of the attorneys. "They always listened and never put me on hold."
Luana Borders Hester, who alleged she was molested by Monsignor Robert A. Bowling in the early 1960s at Holy Cross parish in Loretto, Ky., praised the plaintiffs' legal team and said they deserved their fees. "Without them, the truth never would have come out,'' she said.
But Dr. William Handelman, a St. Petersburg, Fla., cardiologist who alleged he was abused by the Rev. Louis Miller at Holy Spirit as a sixth-grader in 1960 and 1961, said he doesn't think the settlement amount would cover the damages — "the lost careers, the damaged relationships, the counseling."
Mark Gootee, 43, of Oldham County, who contended he was molested by Miller in 1973 when he was an altar boy at St. Aloysius, said: "Nothing could take away the pain. Money is not going to make it go away."
His niece, Kitti Marie (Gootee) Smith, who alleged she was molested by Miller at St. Aloysius from 1972 to 1974, said: "I think it does help, but I don't think I am the &elipse; person I would have been if I hadn't been on a collision course with Father Miller.
"People say, `Get over it,'" said Smith, of Prospect. "But until you have been violated — have had someone touch your very soul, you can't say that. I don't know how to get over it."
Echoing other plaintiffs, Hester, who was raised Catholic but no longer practices, said, "I am sorry that the Catholic people will have to suffer for what a few priests did."
After a briefing by their attorneys at Masterson's Restaurant in Old Louisville, many plaintiffs said last night that what pleased them most was the fact that the archdiocese had, in their eyes, finally accepted as true their allegations about years of abuse.
"The best thing is that they admitted guilt," said Joetta "Jodi" Stone Blair, who was one of three women who alleged they were abused by the Rev. Kevin Cole at Bellarmine College, now Bellarmine University.
Dr. J. Boswell Tabler, a psychiatrist who was one of 27 plaintiffs who alleged they were molested by Miller at Holy Spirit, said: "Our main concern was to make sure this didn't happen again. We scored a victory."
Tabler cited the archdiocese's admission of responsibility and a provision in the settlement establishing a program in the schools to teach children how to avoid sex abuse; the program will be coordinated by the commonwealth's attorney's office.
Martin Robertson, 50, another former student at Holy Spirit who alleged he was molested by Miller there, said after the briefing: "I don't know how I feel &elipse; I am in shock, and I feel like crying. This is something that has been going on since I was 7. It's guided everything about my life."
Robertson said the abuse led him to begin drinking while in middle school.
He said he plans to write a book about his childhood experiences at Miller's
hands and said that he had been required to keep that secret until after
the settlement was announced.
Steven Mudd, 49, who alleged he was fondled by Wood in 1966, when he was 12, said he was happy with the settlement. "It's a lot less than we asked for, but it is more than I expected. The church has always been pretty thrifty when it comes to paying out money.''
Mudd said he was satisfied with the church's apology and settlement, while others said it is not enough.
"Archbishop Kelly will have to resign for this to be complete,'' said Patrick Meehan, 52, one of 94 plaintiffs to name Miller in their lawsuits.
Several of the plaintiffs had gathered for a prayer vigil outside the chancery on College Street last night.
One of them, Gregory C. Hall, said he was happy with some portions of the settlement but wished the dollar figure was higher. "This is good for the future, but for us, as victims, we got screwed. My &elipse; therapy cost more than that."
Shannon Age, who along with her sister, Debbie Ernspiker, allege they were raped by the Rev. Kevin Cole, said she was pleased the church had admitted responsibility and guilt. The money was secondary, she said.
"It could never be enough," said Age, who was carrying a Bible. "They could give us each $100million, but they can never give us back our childhood. They can never give back our innocence, and with Debbie and me, they will never be able to give us back our virginity."
At a news conference late last night at McMurry's office in eastern Louisville, Michael Turner, 45, a construction company owner who filed the first lawsuit against the archdiocese in 2002, said he learned about the settlement yesterday as he was walking into his therapist's office.
"It was a thrill,'' he said.
The flood of lawsuits began April 19, 2002, when Turner of Prospect, sued the archdiocese, claiming that he was sexually abused by Miller in the 1970s and that the archdiocese knew Miller was a "sexual predator."
Turner, 44, alleged that Miller sexually abused him while Turner was attending St. Aloysius Church and School in Pewee Valley, where Miller was working in the 1970s.
The lawsuits were triggered by an April 14, 2002, front-page story in which The Courier-Journal reported that two people had gone to court with allegations against Miller in the previous dozen years. The story reported how Miller retired the month before, after the archdiocese received a complaint against him — the latest of several it has received over the past dozen years, alleging he abused children in the 1960s and 1970s.
Like those that followed, Turner's lawsuit alleged that the church failed to report allegations of abuse to police or to warn parishioners about Miller — arguments considered crucial, because people normally cannot sue for alleged injury suffered many years earlier.
A Courier-Journal analysis of the lawsuits last fall found that the plaintiffs alleged that their abuse started, on average, when they were 11 years old; two claimed they were first abused at age 5. Two-thirds said it happened more than once, and some said they were molested two or three or 10 times or more. Eighty-five percent of them were boys.
One-fourth of those interviewed said that they or their parents reported their alleged abuse to church or school authorities, although many of those reports could not be confirmed because the officials are dead or plaintiffs said they could not remember the authorities' names. But well over half of those interviewed said they told nobody about the abuse when it allegedly happened.
Staff writers Joe Gerth and Shannon Tangonan contributed to this story.
By Gregory A. Hall email@example.com
As news of the $25.7million settlement of 240 sexual-abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Louisville spread quickly last night through the local Catholic community, one theme dominated: closure.
"I hope now some healing can begin," said Tina Doll, a member of Church of the Ascension in St. Regis Park. "It will still be a painful journey."
"It's hard to put a price tag on something like that. I don't know how they did it," said Mark Kleiner, who was watching his daughter play field hockey at Ascension. "I'm just glad it's over with. Hopefully, everyone can move on."
Leslie Jenks, who was standing next to Kleiner, disagreed. "The sad thing is, it's not over," Jenks said, referring to other cases that weren't included in the class-action settlement.
Original Highlands resident Bill Lincoln said the settlement was smaller than he had expected.
"I was looking to see something larger, maybe $100million,'' said Lincoln, who is both organist and director of music at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Phoenix Hill.
He also said that the settlement — regardless of its size — is about more than money.
"The settlement forces people to acknowledge that something happened,'' Lincoln said. "People who were affected may feel, no matter how small the settlement, very satisfied about that.''
Diane Fahy said she thinks the settlement, if used to help the victims pay for needed counseling, is a good thing. Fahy, an Audubon Park resident, has attended St. Martin of Tours on South Shelby Street for the past eight years.
"I think it can be helpful in the healing process,'' she said.
The Rev. William Medley, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Bardstown, said in a phone interview that he didn't know details of the settlement last night but was glad to hear most lawsuits have been settled.
"I certainly feel relieved that it's over with and hope this does mark a turning point for the victims, that they can move to heal their lives and be reconciled with the church,'' he said.
Medley said he worries about the financial burden the settlement will place on the archdiocese.
"If we're talking millions of dollars, that's going to impact services,'' he said.
Sister Joye Gros, president of the congregation of Dominicans at St. Catharine, Ky., said members of her order have taken the suffering of the victims to heart and will be relieved by the settlement.
"It breaks our heart,'' she said. "Everybody's in pain, and we have compassion for people in pain.''
The church's challenge, she said, will be to try to restore trust and credibility.
"The ordinary folk are disillusioned,'' Gros said. "I do think we have a hill to climb.''
At St. Agnes, Glenn Kosse, head of the parish council, agreed that the church needs to "learn from what happened and make the appropriate changes," including giving more power to the laity.
"I'm glad that it's finally behind us," he said, "that the victims and the families and the parishes and the whole Catholic community can start moving forward and working together to develop our faith and not always tear it down."
Kosse declined to comment about his feelings about Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.
St. Boniface's Lincoln said he hopes the scandal doesn't do permanent damage to Kelly's legacy.
"Archbishop Kelly has done so much for the archdiocese, and it's near his retirement,'' he said. "I would hate to see this be the only thing he's remembered for.''
St. Barnabas parishioner and school parent Kevin Altenstadter said he supports Kelly, who Altenstadter said was at his church over the weekend.
"I'm not one of those who feels that he needs to go, and I don't see any reason why he needs to leave," Altenstadter said. "I think he's a very strong leader."
Altenstadter also said he's looking for closure.
"I would hope in the future if this was to happen again, we would have a lesson learned, and our behavior would be a little bit different next time," he said.
He cited, for example, the Rev. Louis E. Miller's testimony last month that he was placed in parish ministry after telling archbishops that he had abused children.
"I feel awful for the people involved, and I truly want reconciliation," said Mike Cronan, a member at Holy Spirit church, where Miller admitted to sexually abusing a number of children.
But Cronan said he is frustrated that money has to be the means of that reconciliation.
"I think it is ridiculous to call for the resignation of the archbishop, and it concerns me that money that was contributed for charitable purposes is taken away, Cronan said.
At St. Patrick Catholic Church in eastern Jefferson County, member Ken Rudolph, 37, of Middletown, said he thinks it's unfortunate that the sexual-abuse allegations have overshadowed the good work of the church. A volunteer for Catholic Charities, he was making a presentation to the parish stewardship committee last night.
"I feel it's real important for people to know what good the Catholic community does,'' he said. "I wish the archdiocese was more vocal about the positive things we do.''
St. Patrick parishioner Bill Janes, 62, of Middletown, said he believes the settlement talks were handled correctly, although he is not "real comfortable" with the whole controversy.
"I'm glad to get it out of the way," he said. "I'd like for the church to move on.''
Staff writers Matt Batcheldor, Sheryl Edelen, Jason Riley and Deborah
Yetter contributed to this story.
By Gregory A. Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville contends that two sexual abuse lawsuits brought to court last month were filed too late and is asking that they be dismissed.
In motions filed this week, the archdiocese asks judges to dismiss the cases of Pamela Tapp Rossman and Matthew L. Kaelin.
Rossman alleged she was abused by the Rev. Joseph Rives between 1962 and 1964. Kaelin alleged the Rev. Louis E. Miller sexually abused him in 1966.
In both motions, the archdiocese argued that a failure to dismiss the cases could "adversely affect" the settlement negotiations that were ongoing at the time in 240 cases and future settlement negotiations in other cases.
"The archdiocese will have no way of knowing the extent of plaintiffs who will file suit and with whom it may desire to settle if the court allows an infinite number of cases to proceed by disregarding the statute of limitations," according to both motions, which are signed by archdiocesan attorney Raymond Smith.
The archdiocese reached a $25.7 million settlement yesterday in its negotiations with the 243 plaintiffs involved in 240 suits filed before April 23.
An archdiocesan spokeswoman was unable to say yesterday whether similar motions for dismissal are forthcoming in cases filed since the Rossman and Kaelin cases, which were filed May 9.
The motions are "inconsistent with their public position that they want to compensate victims," said David Vish, the attorney for both Rossman and Kaelin.
The motions filed by Smith lay out two grounds for dismissals in both cases and a third reason in the Rossman case.
In both cases, the archdiocese argues that Kentucky law requires a lawsuit to be filed either one year after the alleged abuse occurs or by the plaintiff's 19th birthday if the plaintiff was under 18 at the time of the abuse.
The complaints by both plaintiffs allege that church officials knew of sexual abuse by priests and covered it up, which extended the time for them to file a lawsuit to one year after they first learned of the alleged cover-up.
The archdiocese denied any cover-up but, in the dismissal motions, said the cases should be thrown out even if the cover-up theory is accurate because more than a year had elapsed since allegations of abuse came to light.
In Kaelin's complaint, he said he learned of the alleged cover-up "only recently." In Rossman's complaint, she said she learned of the alleged cover-up in late May 2002. The archdiocese cites ongoing coverage by The Courier-Journal and other media outlets since an April 14, 2002, article about the retirement of Miller and allegations of abuse against him by the newspaper.
"The extent of news coverage in multiple forms — radio, television and newspapers — during mid-late April 2002 renders" Rossman's claim of learning of the alleged cover-up in late May 2002 "implausible and unbelievable as a matter of law."
Similar language is contained in the motion to dismiss Kaelin's lawsuit.
Both motions also cite a summary judgment decision in a 1994 Kenton Circuit Court case against the Diocese of Covington where a judge ruled that plaintiffs are obligated to try to discover their right to sue in a timely manner.
Vish said he received the archdiocese's motions yesterday and still was reviewing them. He rejected, however, the claim that his clients knew or should have known of the cover-up allegations.
Many people initially thought the allegations at the heart of the lawsuits dealt with the abuse, when the core allegation is an alleged cover-up by the archdiocese, Vish said.
Rossman, of Louisville, first learned of the abuse accusations in late May 2002 when she was working on a project with Jehovah's Witnesses, Vish said.
Kaelin, a firefighter, wasn't paying "a whole lot of attention" to the news and didn't understand what the cases were about until January, Vish said.
The final reason for dismissal cited by the archdiocese in the Rossman case is that the alleged abuse occurred between 1962 and 1964 and Kentucky's first law requiring people to report alleged child abuse took effect in June 1964.
The archdiocese couldn't be obligated to report abuse that took place
before the law existed, the organization argued, and therefore, any failure
to do that did not give Rossman more time to file her lawsuit.
By Gregory A. Hall email@example.com
The $25.7 million settlement announced yesterday to settle more than 200 sexual-abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville doesn't worry the one attorney whose client decided not to be part of group negotiations.
"I'm sure there'll be plenty of money left," said attorney Wallace Rogers, who represents Kyle Burden, whose suit alleges he was abused as a child by the Rev. Daniel Clark in the summer of 1982.
Only plaintiffs in the cases filed between April 2002 and April 23, 2003, were eligible for the class-action settlement, and Burden was the only one to elect to remain on his own.
In his suit, Burden alleges that Clark fondled him in the basement of the boy's home after driving him home from a softball game at St. Rita Catholic Church, where he attended school and Clark was a priest.
Burden, an attorney, is acting as co-counsel in his case.
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price did not issue a response to questions about the Burden case, citing the pending litigation.
Rogers said he isn't worried that the settlement will leave the archdiocese without funds to pay future judgments.
"If they were doing that, they wouldn't be settling," he said.
Rogers acknowledged, however, that going it alone is a risk. Burden could get nothing in a trial, or the case could be dismissed before trial on legal technicalities.
Nevertheless, Rogers said he didn't want to be part of the class action. "I think you do much better in terms of punitive damages in individual suits, rather than class action."
Burden's case is largely a battle over punitive damages, Rogers said.
Rogers said he believes the bulk of damages in any of the sexual-abuse cases would be punitive rather than compensatory — a payment for expenses and losses.
Class-action settlements give money to plaintiffs with lesser claims, to the detriment of those whose claims deserve more in damages, Rogers said, adding, "This is the best way to handle these cases for the defendant."
In a Nov. 26 deposition for the case, Burden described the impact of the alleged abuse by Clark, noting his loss of religion, self-esteem issues, embarrassment and humiliation.
But he said that he had never paid for counseling regarding the abuse.
"I felt that I coped with it fairly well," he said.
Burden said he told no one of the abuse at the time it occurred, but would switch his schedule as an altar boy to avoid Masses being said by Clark.
Burden and the archdiocese attempted to mediate the case, but it ended unsuccessfully, so Burden's case is pending before Jefferson Circuit Judge Thomas B. Wine.
Wine, meanwhile, is represented in an unrelated case by Robert Stopher, who is in the firm of Ed Stopher, an attorney for the archdiocese. The judge has offered to remove himself from the Burden case unless both sides agree to let him stay on it.
Rogers said he has agreed to let Wine remain on the case, but he has not heard the archdiocese's position.
Once that issue is resolved, Rogers said he will ask for a trial date.
Rogers said Burden has retained a witness who is an expert on the mental issues raised by sexual abuse, and a report is being prepared on the impact on Burden.
"We're moving forward with our case," Rogers said.
But a trial could be years away, if issues that plaintiffs in the class-action case never broached are appealed.
One of those would be whether the deadline for Burden to file a lawsuit expired years ago. Plaintiffs have said that the archdiocese concealed abuse by priests and others, and that they learned of that cover-up within a year of filing their lawsuit. That cover-up, the plaintiffs have claimed, allows lawsuits to be filed after the statute of limitations normally would expire.
The archdiocese has denied any cover-up.
Rogers said he expects a battle over the statute of limitations and conceded that a final determination of that issue by appellate courts could take years.
"I'm sure they're going to raise that as an issue," he said. "I think they're going to lose."
Rogers said any appeal of a jury's award also could drag for years on appeal.
Proceeding alone also could give the opportunity for Rogers to take sworn testimony before trial from Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.
Rogers, however, said he doesn't plan to do that, adding that he'd rather see Kelly's reaction to questions on the witness stand during a trial.
Burden said he also may try to get evidence of abuse by other priests — and any knowledge by the archdiocese of that abuse — introduced as evidence for the trial.
"If we don't (win on that request), we go with what we've got," Rogers said. "And I think the evidence is clearly going to show that they knew Dan Clark had some problems a year before this happened to Kyle."
Harriet Ann Weatherbee testified in a deposition last year that she reported an allegation of Clark abusing her son, Brian J. Weatherbee, to St. Rita's pastor, the Rev. Vincent Schweizer on July 3, 1981, and that he assured her that it had been reported to the archdiocese.
The archdiocese has posed some tough questions itself, which Rogers expected. For example, in a deposition, Burden was questioned about his personal financial records, including a personal bankruptcy, which Rogers argued is not relevant.
"It is a fairly common legal procedure today," Rogers said.
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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