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Church in Crisis
Monsignor Robert A. Bowling

Louisville Courier-Journal
September 29, 2002

http://www.courier-journal.com/cjextra/2002projects/priestabuse/stories/bowling_holycross.html

[See the main page of this special section on the Church in Crisis.]

Bowling, of Reno, Nevada, formerly worked in Kentucky at St. Rita parish in Louisville, St. Joseph Preparatory School in Bardstown and Holy Cross parish in Holy Cross, Ky. Ordained in Kentucky in 1965, he left the state in 1969 to work in the rapidly growing Catholic community in Nevada. He became pastor of St. Therese Church of the Little Flower in 1974 and was working at the 3,500-family parish this year when the first allegations against him arose. Bowling initially took a leave of absence, traveling to Louisville to deny the allegations. He has since been suspended from his job and is not available for comment. Ten women have accused him of sexual abuse. Nine allege they were abused as children in Kentucky. One Reno woman alleged she was abused as an adult.

HOLY CROSS PARISH

PLAINTIFF: Wahseka Corbett Elliott (could not be reached for interview)
AGE: 47
FILED SUIT: July 30
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: About 1983, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Sexual abuse
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Confession
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Elliott's lawsuit said that when she was about 8, Bowling asked sexually explicit questions of her in confession and sexually abused her on another occasion.



PLAINTIFF: Luana Borders Hester
AGE: 56
FILED SUIT: July 30
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1960 or 1961, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Rectory
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Hester said when she was about 14 or 15, she was visiting her grandmother, a member of the Holy Cross parish, when the rectory's housekeeper got sick. Hester volunteered to help out with chores at the rectory during the day when the two priests who lived there were supposed to be out. Bowling twice showed up unexpectedly, grabbed her and fondled her, she said.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? No
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "I jerked away from him. It was like, of all people. . . . I don't consider him a priest, a priest doesn't do that. A man of God should never do this."



PLAINTIFF: Karen (Newton) Mouser
AGE: 51
ADDRESS: Nelson County
FILED SUIT: May 21
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1962, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Forced exposure
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Confession
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Mouser's lawsuit said that Bowling forced her to expose herself for his sexual gratification during confession when she was about 11.
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "I kept looking for his name to come up" when the initial sexual abuse cases naming other priests were filed. "I thought, someone has got to speak up."



PLAINTIFF: Mary Clayton Sims (could not be reached for interview)
AGE: 53
FILED SUIT: June 26
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1962-63, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Forced fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Confession
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Sims' suit said Bowling sexually abused her and forced her to touch his genitals during confession.



PLAINTIFF: Janice (Hicks) Unseld
AGE: 54
ADDRESS: Holy Cross
OCCUPATION: Homemaker
FILED SUIT: May 21
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1960-62, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Church, school outings
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Unseld said she was sexually abused by Bowling while she was about 12 to 14 and a student at Holy Cross Elementary. She recalled that the priest once took a group of students to a movie and sat next to her and fondled her during the movie. Unseld said she got away by changing seats at intermission.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? No
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "I just knew it was wrong, he shouldn't be touching you places like that. I knew but I didn't know what to do about it."



PLAINTIFF: Grace Newton Vernon
AGE: 53
ADDRESS: Boston, Ky.
FILED SUIT: May 31
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1961, Holy Cross
ACCUSATION: Fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: School
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Vernon said Bowling sexually abused her by fondling her several times at Holy Cross Elementary, once when he was sitting next to her with a group of students in the school library watching a movie with the lights out. Vernon estimated she was about 10 or 11 years old.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? No
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "He denied it. His job is to teach people not to lie, to tell people what is right and wrong. . . . I was going sit back and keep my mouth shut until that happened."


ST. RITA

PLAINTIFF: Deborah Quire Volz
AGE: 54
ADDRESS: Louisville
OCCUPATION: Consultant
FILED SUIT: Aug. 22
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: About 1956, St. Rita
ACCUSATION: Fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: School sickroom
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Volz said that when she was about age 8, she fell on the school playground and was taken to the school sickroom. She said she remembered Bowling standing over her and fondling her genitals under her underwear, asking if she was hurt there.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? No
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "I feel like I am a voice for those people who are not strong enough to come forward who have been greatly affected by this kind of abuse. I'd like to have him look me in the face and tell me he didn't do it."



PLAINTIFF: Margaret "Peggy" Langness Wheat
AGE: 56
ADDRESS: Louisville
OCCUPATION: Food service worker
FILED SUIT: Aug. 22
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1955 or 1956, St. Rita
ACCUSATION: Sexual abuse
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Parish
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Wheat's lawsuit said that Bowling sexually abused her on several occasions when she was a student at St. Rita Elementary. She said she went to stay with her grandmother because Bowling frequently visited her home and she didn't want to be around him because of the abuse.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? Wheat said she told her grandmother, who in 1956 or 1957 told a relative who was a priest. Bowling was moved to St. Joseph Preparatory School in Bardstown.
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "I thought I was the only one for sure. He just needs to be honest. It's been kept quiet a long time."



PLAINTIFF: Patricia Ann (Schneider) Wheeler (could not be reached for interview)
AGE: 54
ADDRESS: Louisville
FILED SUIT: June 14
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: 1956 or 1957, St. Rita
ACCUSATION: Fondling
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Bowling's car.
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Wheeler's suit said she became sick one day at St. Rita school and Bowling took her home. On the way, he fondled Wheeler's genitals, asking, "Is that where it hurts?"


THERESE OF THE LITTLE FLOWER CHURCH, RENO

PLAINTIFF: Christine Filippis Clark
AGE: 40
ADDRESS: Reno, Nevada
OCCUPATION: Teacher
FILED SUIT: June 14
DEFENDANT: Archdiocese of Louisville
DATE AND LOCATION OF ALLEGED ABUSE: St. Therese of the Little Flower Church, Reno
ACCUSATION: Battery
WHERE ALLEGED ABUSE OCCURRED: Rectory
DETAILS OF ALLEGATION: Clark's suit said Bowling abused her as an adult by hugging and kissing her and steering conversation toward sexual topics when she was meeting with him to discuss converting to the Catholic Church in 1982. Bowling discussed intimate details about sexual topics such as orgasm, sexual positions and pleasure and hugged her in an "unwelcome" way with his body pressed against hers, followed by kisses on the mouth, the lawsuit said.
WAS ANYONE TOLD? Clark said she told her then-husband, but didn't tell any church officials until this year. Mico Filippis confirmed that his ex-wife had told him of the incident.
IN THE PLAINTIFF'S WORDS: "It was because of fear that I didn't come forward before, fear of having it not acknowledged and taken seriously. Now that there are other women coming forward, there's power in numbers. I felt safer and that this violation would be taken seriously now."


 
 

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