Priest Resigns over Sex-Abuse Claim
The Rev. Ron Bohl Is the Third Pastor Removed from Ministry in the Archdiocese This Year over Such an Allegation

By Peter Smith
July 9, 2002

For the third time this year, a parish pastor has been removed from ministry in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville over an allegation of past sexual abuse.

The Rev. Ron Bohl, pastor of Incarnation Church in southwestern Jefferson County, resigned late last month at the request of Archbishop Thomas Kelly, according to Bohl's religious order, the Conventual Franciscan Community.

The resignation came after the Conventual Franciscans informed Kelly of an accusation made against Bohl in 1986 when he was working in Ohio, according to Brother Robert Baxter, spokesman for the order.

Baxter said there have been no other allegations against Bohl, who was ordained in 1980.

Bohl could not be reached for comment. A telephone message left for him at Incarnation brought no response; Baxter said Bohl is currently away.

The Conventual Franciscans - who work in several Midwestern states and are based at Mount St. Francis, Ind. - operate Incarnation parish for the archdiocese. The order's leader, the Rev. Peter Damian, informed parishioners of Bohl's resignation at Masses during the last weekend of June.

Bohl, 58, who became pastor of Incarnation in late 2000, was accused of a single incident in 1986 in which he allegedly made an unwanted sexual advance to a minor, Baxter said.

The incident allegedly occurred while Bohl was working as an associate pastor in Carey, Ohio, at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation.

The order ultimately reached a settlement in 1993 with the alleged victim, Baxter said. He said he could not disclose details because it included a confidentiality clause.

Police investigated the allegation but did not bring charges, Baxter said.

Baxter said he could not immediately confirm whether the Franciscans verified the allegation against Bohl. But he said it was serious enough to prompt the Franciscans to inform Kelly of it after U.S. bishops last month approved the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

That policy calls for the removal from ministry of any priest who has committed even a single act of child sexual abuse.

While religious orders have not yet formally adopted the policy for themselves, it does apply to religious-order priests working in ministries that are supervised by bishops, Baxter and archdiocesan officials say.

Baxter said the Franciscans continue to examine their personnel records for any indications of past abuse. "We're still reviewing and trying to make sure every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed," he said.

Parishioners reacted to Damian's announcement of Bohl's resignation with "stunned and teary silence," according to Bob Markert, a deacon at Incarnation.

"There's been a lot of pain and some anger and confusion," Markert said, adding that Bohl was "well loved and very popular."

In his short tenure, Bohl "had achieved a lot," Markert added. "He was very energetic."

The Rev. Christian Moore, also a Franciscan Conventual priest, has been appointed administrator of Incarnation, pending final approval of him as pastor by Kelly, Baxter said. He said Mass at last weekend's services, while Markert preached.

Bohl will be reassigned but will have no public ministry, Baxter said.

Following the alleged incident in Ohio, the Franciscans sent Bohl for therapy from August 1986 to March 1987, Baxter said.

The practice of sending priests to therapy after abuse, then reassigning them to parish ministry without warning parishioners of past allegations, has been one of the most controversial aspects of Catholic bishops' historic handling of abusive priests, and the new charter rules out such actions in the future.

After therapy, Bohl had a series of assignments. He worked at St. Anthony Church in Louisville from June 1987 to November 1988, then at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Clarksville, Ind., until September 1991. Other assignments brought him to Ames, Iowa, and Terre Haute, Ind. From 1993 until he went to Incarnation, Bohl worked at Mount St. Francis in Floyd County, Ind., helping in the care of elderly friars.

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price confirmed Bohl's resignation but referred questions about details of the allegation to the Franciscans.

Incarnation is the latest of several parishes affected by the abuse scandal. Two other pastors, the Revs. Thomas Creagh and Joseph Herp, resigned from their Jefferson County parishes in May amid allegations of past abuse. The Rev. J. Irvin Mouser, an associate at two Nelson County parishes, has gone on administrative leave. None of the three has commented on the allegations against them.

Also last month, Kelly removed the Rev. Joseph Stoltz, sacramental moderator of St. William Church in Louisville, from ministry over an incident of abuse that Kelly said occurred in the 1970s.

This year, 154 people have sued the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by 21 priests and three other employees over the past half century, a time period in which 458 archdiocesan priests and hundreds of religious-order priests have worked here. Creagh, Herp and Mouser are among those accused in multiple lawsuits.

Two other priests accused of abuse while in Louisville have also stepped back from ministry: Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, who resigned, and the Rev. Robert Bowling, who took leave from his Reno, Nev., parish. Both have maintained their innocence.

The lawsuits also accuse three other Conventual Franciscans: deceased priests Kevin Cole and Daniel Emerine and former friar Francis Dominic.

All of the lawsuits name only the archdiocese as defendant, alleging that priests "engaged in a pattern" of sexually abusing children and that archdiocesan officials knew about the alleged abuse and did nothing. Most of the suits, however, offer no evidence of such a pattern.






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