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  Bishop Denies Sexual-Abuse Claims
Diocese Criticizes Lawsuit Accusing Unnamed Priests

By Peter Smith
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
June 7, 2002

Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams continues to maintain his innocence despite facing a second accusation of sexual abuse.

His diocese has also criticized a separate lawsuit filed by five unnamed people making accusations against unidentified priests, calling it "a fishing expedition."

Williams yesterday issued his first public statement since he was named in a second lawsuit May 31 by a man accusing him of abuse. Two men have now alleged abuse by Williams in lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, which employed him from his ordination in 1963 until he became a bishop in 1984.

"I have never sexually abused anyone at any time in my life," Williams said in the statement yesterday. "I do not know why these two men would say these things."

In lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville, James W. Bennett of Louisville alleges Williams abused him in 1981 while Bennett was a 12-year-old altar boy at the Church of Our Lady in Louisville, while David Hall alleges Williams fondled him when Hall was an 18-yearold senior at St. Catherine High School in New Haven.

Williams has voluntarily taken a leave of absence in keeping with diocesan policy that requires priests to be removed from public duties while an accusation is pending.

The Lexington diocese also harshly denounced a suit filed May 30 against it by Lexington lawyer Robert Treadway on behalf of five unnamed plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse by unidentified priests.

"The lawsuit . . . has all of the hallmarks of a fishing expedition," the statement said. "The suit itself reads like an absurd work of fiction: anonymous accusers leveling undated, broad charges against unnamed priests. The single concrete piece of information in the entire civil suit is the requested $50 million."

The diocese said Treadway has failed to come through with his promise to confidentially provide specifics on the allegations.

But Treadway said he would only do so once a Fayette Circuit Court judge approves his request to keep the names of accusers and the accused confidential. He criticized the diocese's statement. "Rather than trying to reconcile with people, there's more bullying and intimidation," he said.

In another matter, the Archdiocese of Louisville has placed a priest on leave from his positions at two Nelson County parishes after receiving a single allegation of sexual abuse against him.

In a May 31 letter sent to parishioners at St. Thomas and St. Monica parishes, Archbishop Thomas Kelly said he asked the Rev. Irvin Mouser to refrain from parish ministry pending an internal investigation of the allegation.

Mouser has been serving as associate pastor at St. Thomas and as associate sacramental moderator at St. Monica Church, both in Bardstown.

Kelly said "the victim reported an incident that occurred in 1974." He did not elaborate on the accusation or identify the accuser.

Mouser did not return a Courier-Journal phone call yesterday; an outgoing message on his answering machine said he was away until today.

The Diocese of Lexington also plans to place the Rev. Bill Fedders on leave from his position as pastor of Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church in Morehead, Ky. Fedders was named Monday in a lawsuit filed by Will L. McGinnis III of Lexington.

McGinnis, representing himself, alleges Fedders abused him as a 14-year-old altar boy at Christ the King Cathedral in Lexington in 1983.

Diocesan officials will follow normal policies of conducting an internal investigation and monitoring the lawsuit, spokesman Thomas Shaughnessy said.

 
 

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