40-Year-Old Allegations against Fishers Priest Resurface
By Dan McFeely
March 1, 2013
|A Fishers parish is taking the unusual step of going public to confront decades-old allegations against its pastor. A spokesman for the Lafayette Diocese confirmed Thursday that the decision — which includes a rare visit by the bishop for a pair of public 'conversations' with parishioners at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church — came as a result of an anonymous letter to the parish. / Charlie Nye / The Star file photo|
A Fishers parish is taking the unusual step of going public to confront decades-old allegations against its pastor.
A spokesman for the Lafayette Diocese confirmed Thursday that the decision — which includes a rare visit by the bishop for a pair of public “conversations” with parishioners at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church — came as a result of an anonymous letter to the parish.
The letter raises allegations of sexual abuse made against the Rev. Patrick R. Click, based on an alleged incident 40-plus years ago in New Orleans that diocese officials say was investigated and determined to be unfounded.
The anonymous letter writer threatened to make the allegations public unless Click was fired from his position at the parish, where he has been stationed since 2005.
In response to the threat, the parish decided to go public, sending letters to parishioners this week recounting the allegations, the subsequent investigation conducted in 2002 and a plan to have Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Lafayette Diocese on hand this weekend to address concerns.
The personal time with the spiritual leader of the diocese, which covers most of north-central Indiana, is a rare response given the Catholic Church’s history of trying to keep such allegations quiet and under control.
“It is not a matter of policy,” diocese spokesman Kevin Cullen said about the open visit to Fishers. “Bishop Doherty sees it as a way to show support for the parish and the parish leadership.”
Cullen characterized the allegations against Click as a case of “mistaken identity” that were vetted more than 10 years ago by a diocesan review board, consisting of members of the Catholic Church, non-members, abuse therapists and law enforcement.
“No action was deemed necessary at that time because it was a case of mistaken identity,” Cullen said. “No action is deemed necessary today because we judge the recent allegation not credible and slanderous.”
According to the parish letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Indianapolis Star, the alleged incident took place at a youth home in New Orleans. Cullen said Click was still a seminarian at the time.
The allegations first surfaced in 2002 when church officials were alerted to the claim of sexual abuse.
They apparently stem from accusations and a lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2005, in which many religious and laypeople were accused of abuse. Settlements were reached in 2009.
Parish spokesman Robert Vane said Click was not one of those named in the lawsuit.
Click was a seminarian in New Orleans in the summer of 1968, however, and remained there until 1971.
Vane said Click went to school at Notre Dame seminary during the school year and worked at Madonna Manor youth home in the summers of 1968, 1969 and 1970.
Alluding to what they believe was a case of mistaken identity, Vane pointed out that Click was never a “brother” at the home, a term used by the accuser and one that would have been used if he was a member of a religious community. Rather, he was a seminarian and was typically referred to as “Mr. Pat.”
The 2002 diocesan investigation ultimately found the allegations to be “unsupported by the facts and without merit.” Further, the letter states, the accuser met with church officials from various other dioceses.
“A team of Catholic leaders from various dioceses and archdioceses (including ours) met with the accuser for several hours to discuss many accusations made by the accuser against many people,” the letter reads. “The result of the meeting confirmed our Diocesan Review Board’s findings.”
Click declined to comment for this story. Parishioners were shocked when they heard the news.
“It came out of the blue, and it was quite a shock,” said Cathy Kroeff, a parishioner since 2003 who has volunteered at the parish elementary school and is a member of the parish council.
On a Friday night two weeks ago, Kroeff and others who are on the parish council and school council were called to an emergency meeting to discuss the anonymous letter, which threatened to make the matter a public scandal.
“It angered us because it seemed very cowardly,” she said. “If they really had information, they should have confronted Father Pat directly. But this seemed underhanded, and it lacked integrity.”
Kroeff said she has never heard any “whispers of anything wrong” with her pastor.
The decision to go public was one that was made rather quickly that night.
“We all said, ‘Hey, let’s just take the wind out of their sails and let our people know first,’ ” Kroeff said. “This is old news; (Father Pat) has been found innocent.”
Going public was a unanimous decision, she said.
“There was never was any discussion on how to control this or keep it under the rug. We wanted to share this with parishioners.”
Letters began arriving Wednesday at the homes of the 1,200 families who are parishioners.
Vane said parishioners may have been caught off-guard by the letters but said there is much support in the parish for their pastor.
“The reaction is one of support for Father Pat, and it’s also one of rallying around their Catholic faith and parish,” Vane said. “Like anyone else faced with such allegations, these are difficult times.
“But (Father Pat) has absolutely without hesitation or reservations maintained that this incident did not happen.”
Doherty plans to hold two hourlong sessions Sunday in the school gymnasium for “a conversation” with interested parishioners.
“To say that confirmed allegations cause a crisis of confidence for the Catholic Church is to acknowledge the obvious,” the letter says. “Let there be no lack of confidence, however, in our spiritual and temporal leadership here at St. Louis de Montfort.
“Our Catholic faith community, while healing from these difficult times, is as strong as ever, and we need your support.”
St. Louis de Montfort was founded in 1978 and includes a K-8 elementary school on its campus, on Hague Road, just south of 116th Street.
The letter was signed by the parish staff, parish council and school advisory council.