Lawyer Is Representing 1970s Seminary Student
By Art Jester And Lee Mueller
Lexington Herald Leader
April 17, 2002
A priest at a small Catholic church in McCreary County has been suspended because of an allegation of sexual misconduct that purportedly occurred in Illinois and Kentucky in the 1970s.
The Rev. Carroll Howlin, 67, pastor of Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City, was put on administrative leave Sunday, pending an investigation, according to a statement yesterday from the Catholic Diocese of Lexington.
Church officials did not specify the allegation.
Howlin said he had been notified of the suspension and declined further comment, but not before he denounced news coverage of the current sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
"They're accusing people of being guilty until proven innocent," Howlin said. "They're convicting people without any evidence."
Howlin referred all questions to Bishop Joseph L. Imesch of his home diocese, the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
Imesch, who has ultimate authority over Howlin, said "there are no substantiated allegations."
The bishop said he met last week with the alleged victim's parents and was disturbed by the allegations, but has not heard from the man.
Imesch said diocesan policy on sex-abuse allegations required that he put Howlin on leave from ministerial duties until the matter is resolved.
Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, following a similar diocesan policy, also suspended Howlin.
25 years in Kentucky
Howlin requested and received permission to move to Kentucky in 1977 to work in "home missions," according to the statement from the Lexington diocese.
The priest's move was approved by the late Archbishop Thomas J. McDonough of Louisville. Howlin was pastor of Good Shepherd Chapel when the Lexington diocese was created in 1988.
(Although he has been serving in Kentucky for 25 years, Howlin has retained his affiliation with his home diocese in Joliet.)
There is nothing in Howlin's file since the move that indicates any problems or misconduct, according to spokesmen for the Louisville archdiocese and the Lexington diocese.
A Joliet lawyer who said he is representing the alleged victim said the abuse occurred in Illinois and Kentucky between 1974 and 1976, when his client was attending St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lockport, Ill., where Howlin was on the staff at that time.
The lawyer, Keith Aeschliman, said the alleged victim is a 44-year-old man who "lives out West," is married and has children. Aeschliman said he told the man and his parents, who live in Indiana, not to comment. The Herald-Leader does not publish the names of victims of alleged sex abuse without their consent.
Criminal charges sought
Howlin appeared in a flattering column on Dec. 27, 2001, in The Herald News, a Joliet newspaper. It reported that the priest brought a group of boys from the seminary to McCreary County in the 1970s for four days of mission work.
"I fell in love with the work, the people and kept on coming back," Howlin is quoted as saying.
Aeschliman said the alleged victim wants to seek criminal charges against the priest. The lawyer said he has discussed the case with Will County (Ill.) State's Attorney Jeffrey Tomczak. Tomczak could not be reached yesterday.
In Whitley City, where Howlin conducted services Sunday, the news came as "an absolute complete surprise," said J.D. Egnew, who said his wife helped found Good Shepherd Chapel about 25 years ago.
"We, as a congregation, consider him a real asset to our community," Egnew said. "He's a builder at heart, very active in the community, very busy helping people who need help the most."
Andrew Keith, 28, a church member from Stearns, said: "I can't see how any such allegation would be true. I've known Father Howlin for 25 years. He's been nothing but a pillar of the community."
Howlin has written a column for the weekly McCreary County Voice for about 18 months.
"I think the world of him, to be honest," assistant editor Andy Powell said.
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