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  Trauma of Abuse by Priests Lingers
In Wake of Bierman Death, Settlement

By Brett Barrouquere
Associated Press, carried in Lexington Herald-Leader [Louisville KY]
June 16, 2005

LOUISVILLE - Decades after being sexually abused by a priest in Central Kentucky, Kay Montgomery is still coping with the memories and emotional trauma.

"I don't think a victim ever forgets what a perpetrator does to them, robs them of their innocence," said Montgomery, a Lexington resident who heads the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

So, even with the death this week of former Catholic priest Earl Bierman and the pending settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Diocese of Covington, Montgomery and others say victims still might be looking for closure.

Bierman, 73, was serving a 20-year sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange when he died Monday. He pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting six boys in the 1960s and 1970s and was suspended from the priesthood. He was awaiting a July 7 medical parole hearing when he died.

The criminal case and a civil suit against Bierman and the diocese were the earliest signs of what would develop into a large-scale sex abuse scandal against the Covington Diocese.

Attorneys said the settlement could reach $120 million for 200-plus victims in the class-action case covering 50 years. They say that includes many of the estimated 70 children Bierman molested while in Covington, Newport and Maysville.

Although the settlement could close the legal case for victims, it doesn't close the emotional one, said Campbell County Commonwealth's Attorney Jack Porter, who was preparing for Bierman's parole hearing.

Many of Bierman's victims contacted Porter about the parole hearing. Porter said nearly all of them opposed early release, even though the state Department of Corrections determined Bierman had less than a year to live.

Bierman's "victims have not been able to live normal lives because of his actions," Porter said. "He never apologized in open court, he never apologized to any of his victims."

Approval of the proposed settlement could help both the diocese and many of the victims at least begin the healing process, said Carrie Huff, an attorney for the diocese. "We believe it helps the diocese achieve a measure of justice for a wrong done to people when they were children," Huff said.

Attorney Stan Chesley, who represents plaintiffs in the class-action suit, is working to get the final paperwork for the settlement to Special Judge John Potter for preliminary approval by June 23 in Boone Circuit Court.

 
 

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