Sealed Records Disclosed
Priest Fathered Child, Another
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
August 24, 2002
A Roman Catholic priest who abruptly resigned in March from Lexington's Cathedral of Christ the King, citing job burnout, was removed because he was having an affair with a married woman in his parish, according to a lawsuit against the Lexington Diocese.
The Rev. Greg Shuler also fathered a child from a previous relationship while he was working as a priest and the diocese either paid or arranged for child-support payments "to avoid scandal and publicity," the lawsuit alleges.
The allegations are contained in a sealed portion of a lawsuit against the diocese alleging sexual abuse of children by priests and a pattern of cover-up by church officials. The Courier-Journal obtained a copy of the lawsuit that contains the sealed material.
Shuler is not accused of child sexual abuse. Rather, the lawsuit filed by four men and one woman alleges that the church's treatment of Shuler and three priests shows the church knew of but failed to deal with or inform parishioners of their sexual misconduct.
The sealed portion also alleges that the Rev. Charles A. Howell was arrested in a Lexington park for indecent exposure in 1998 but was allowed to continue his work as a priest with no warning or notice to his parishioners.
It also alleges that church officials knew of but failed to stop two other priests - the Rev. Earl Bierman and Monsignor Leonard Nienaber - from molesting children. The lawsuit claims that Bierman went on to molest one of the plaintiffs. Both priests eventually were convicted of child sexual abuse.
Tom Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the Lexington Diocese, yesterday said neither he nor the diocese's lawyer, John Famularo, could comment on any of the allegations while that portion of the lawsuit remains sealed.
"It's under seal, and we're not to discuss the lawsuit," he said.
Shuler resigned as rector of the cathedral - the diocese's central church - three days before Easter.
He could not be reached for comment yesterday. A man who answered the telephone at his former residence said Shuler no longer lives there and he couldn't say how to reach him.
The diocese is fighting to keep a portion of the suit involving Shuler and the three other priests sealed, contending the material in the sealed portion is not relevant to the plaintiffs' allegations of sexual abuse. A Fayette circuit judge and the state Appeals Court have ordered the material unsealed, but the diocese last week asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the lower rulings.
The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader are seeking to have the material opened to the press and public.
David Clohessy, national director of the support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it is wrong for the church to try to conceal allegations of wrongdoing. "To continue to be secretive is embarrassing and hurtful," he said. "It's mind-boggling that they don't see that."
Fayette Circuit Judge Mary Noble ruled last month that the sealed portion is not relevant to the lawsuit but ordered that it remain part of the record and open to the public. The material in question has remained sealed while the diocese appeals the case.
Robert Treadway filed the lawsuit on behalf of Samuel Lee Edwards Graywolf of Nicholasville; James Mahan of Los Angeles; and William Lalley, Edwin Gonzalez and Kay Montgomery, all of Lexington. The five, who all allege sexual abuse by priests in the Lexington or Covington dioceses, declined to comment yesterday.
Lexington was part of the Covington Diocese until 1988; the lawsuit names both dioceses as defendants.
Shaughnessy said the Lexington Diocese stands by its previous statement that Shuler's departure was not related to allegations of child sex abuse and that he was leaving "because he needs some time away."
Shuler said in the parish bulletin that he was resigning because "I am tired, weary and burned out," according to an April 13 article in the Lexington newspaper. The statement said, "I need some time to rediscover me."
But the lawsuit alleges Shuler was in an affair with an unnamed parishioner, causing her divorce. After the matter was brought to the attention of Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, Shuler was removed, the lawsuit says.
Williams resigned as bishop on June 11 in the wake of allegations he sexually abused three people while a priest in the Louisville Archdiocese.
The lawsuit said Shuler has been sent to a four-month treatment program in Missouri and that, once he completes the program, Shuler is to be returned to pastoral duties.
The lawsuit alleges that the diocese, even though it knew of Shuler's "prediliction" to have affairs, allowed him to conduct marriage counseling and other work that gave him access to "emotionally needy women."
It also alleges the diocese failed to effectively deal with the behavior of Bierman, a former teacher at Covington Latin School, and Nienaber, a former priest in Lexington.
Bierman pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting six boys in the 1960s and 1970s and is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Nienaber, 93, pleaded guilty in 1994 to 10 counts of sexual abuse and was placed in a Missouri treatment program where he remains, according to the lawsuit.
The sealed portion alleges that the Covington Diocese knew Bierman was a "habitual pedophile" as early as the 1960s and sent him to treatment for four years. The diocese then returned Bierman to pastoral duty in Maysville, where he molested Lalley, the lawsuit alleges.
It also alleges the Covington Diocese received reports of Nienaber's misconduct but failed to remove him from his duties at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary parish and school.
Further, the lawsuit alleges the Lexington Diocese "shielded" Shuler as well as the priest cited for indecent exposure, Howell, pastor of St. William parish in London, Ky.
The lawsuit says Howell was arrested by Lexington police in 1998 at Jacobson Park after an officer observed him masturbating in the presence of two males. The lawsuit says the two males apparently were not arrested.
It says Howell paid a $100 fine plus court costs after the charge was amended to disorderly conduct. It said Howell has never been formally disciplined. Howell could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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