Victims Write Bishop about Accused Priest
By David Clohessy
May 16, 2013
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging a Kentucky bishop to oust a four-time accused predator priest from his diocese and "aggressively seek out" anyone the cleric may have molested.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org) are writing Lexington Bishop Ronald W. Gainer about Fr. Carroll Howlin who lives unmonitored and "ministers" in eastern Kentucky in apparent violation of a Vatican order and the church’s national abuse policy.
Late last month, the Chicago Tribune reported that Fr. Howlin, suspended for sexually abusing Illinois boys, still lives and works - unsupervised - in McCreary County. The cleric has reportedly also molested two Kentucky boys, one of whom committed suicide.
Fr. Howlin, according to the Tribune, allegedly used money to garner sexual favors from impoverished boys.
In 2002, Fr. Howlin, then 67, pastored Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City. He was reportedly put on administrative leave when abuse reports against him surfaced that year, according to a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Lexington (
(One man says he reported Fr. Howlin’s crimes to Catholic officials in 1993)
Despite his suspension, however, the Tribune reports that Fr. Howlin’s supervisors in both the Lexington and the Joliet Catholic diocese have basically ignored him. The Vatican has reportedly “sentenced” Fr. Howlin to a lifetime of "prayer and penance" and banned him from unsupervised contact with minors. But the Tribune found that “he serves as his own minder here in rural Kentucky. The choice of whether to follow the Vatican's restrictions involving ministry or being alone with children remains entirely up to him.”
"A lion trainer does not set the lion free every night, telling the beast to 'stay away from prey.'" SNAP’s letter to Gainer says, "But that is what you are essentially doing with Fr. Howlin. It’s time for you to end your silence and inaction with this serial predator."
Fr. Howlin, while officially on temporary suspension, remains a priest on the Joliet diocese payroll.
SNAP believes Fr. Howlin should be put in a remote, independent treatment center far from Kentucky and Illinois. "The only way to ensure that Howlin does not abuse again is to make sure that he is as far away from children as possible. Optimally, in a remote, secure treatment facility where he can be monitored 24/7," the letter continues.
"What good are policies and procedures and pronouncements until they translate into tangible action that protects kids?" the letter says. "Catholic officials can say what they like but when this child molesting cleric lives where and how he did before he was accused—doing the same things he did before—nothing changes and more kids will be abused."
SNAP suspects that there may be more victims of Fr. Howlin who are “trapped in silence, shame and self blame.” SNAP also worries that there are more predator priests living in other dioceses - perhaps dozens of them – who are, like Fr. Howlin, not monitored or supervised and live/work among families who are unaware of the danger they present. (According to BishopAccountability.org, eight Lexington diocesan priests are proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesters.)
SNAP wants Lexington’s Bishop Ronald William Gainer to disclose where other pedophile priests are living and move them to secure sex offender treatment and housing facilities.
SNAP also wants Bishop Gainer to aggressively reach out – using parish bulletins, diocesan website, pulpit announcements and personal visits - to anyone who saw, suspects, or suffered crimes by Fr. Howlin (or any other Catholic official) to come forward and report to police.
A copy of SNAP’s letter, sent today by email, is below:
May 16, 2013
Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer, D.D., J.C.L.
Diocese of Lexington
1310 West Main Street
Lexington, KY 40508-2048
Dear Bishop Gainer,
We are members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We are writing to you today about Fr. Carroll Howlin. Our purpose is simple: to protect kids. And we want you to take real steps – now - to get this suspended, credibly accused serial predator priest away from children.
• In 1993, Fr. Howlin was first accused of child abuse,
• In 2002, Fr. Howlin, pastored Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City in McCreary County,
• He was put on administrative leave when abuse reports against him surfaced that year, but,
• He has kept working in ministry with virtually no supervision.
What good are policies and procedures and pronouncements until they translate into tangible action that protects kids? Catholic officials can say what they like but when this child molesting cleric lives where and how he did before he was accused—doing the same things he did before—nothing changes and more kids will be abused.
When credible allegations of child sex abuse surface against Catholic priests, bishops usually take action to temporarily suspend them from active parish ministry. But that’s only the first step. It’s only the bare minimum. It’s a smart legal defense and public relations move, but telling a predator he doesn’t have to do any work but is still entitled to pay and can stay put without being monitored isn’t much progress.
The real solution is simple:
• First, oust Fr. Howlin from your diocese and publicly urge his direct supervisor (Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon) to put him in a secure treatment facility away from children
• Second, visit every parish located in the vicinity of where Fr. Howlin is and aggressively seek out other victims
• Third, urge every other resource you have (parish bulletins, diocesan websites, pulpit announcements) to spread the word about this child molesting cleric and urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes to call police so that he might be prosecuted, convicted and kept away from kids.
As best we can tell, no Catholic official has done any of this with Fr. Howlin. The only way to ensure that Fr. Howlin does not abuse again is to make sure that he is as far away from children as possible. Optimally, in a remote, secure treatment facility where he can be monitored 24/7.
These steps are the bare minimum an alleged “shepherd” would do for his “flock.”
A lion trainer does not set the lion free every night, telling the beast to "stay away from prey." But that is what you are essentially doing with Fr. Howlin. It’s time for you to end your silence and inaction with this serial predator.
David Clohessy, SNAP Executive Director, 314-566-9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Dan Frondorf, SNAP Cincinnati Director, 513-706-7403, firstname.lastname@example.org