Priest Is Named in Sex-Abuse Suit for the First Time

By Deborah Yetter
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
September 20, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who was removed from ministry in June because of a single allegation of sexual abuse from the 1970s has been named for the first time in a lawsuit alleging abuse.

The Rev. Joseph Stoltz is accused of sexually abusing a Louisville man, Bernard Wiseman, in the mid-1970s, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.

The lawsuit is the 185th since April to be filed against the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by priests and others, including teachers, a coach and a deacon. Cecelia Price, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said yesterday that church officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Stoltz did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

Wiseman, 43, claims in the lawsuit that he was sexually abused by Stoltz from 1975 through 1977, when Wiseman was between the ages of 16 and 18 and a member of St. Edward parish in Jeffersontown.

Price said Stoltz wasn't assigned to St. Edward until June 1977.

Wiseman was not available for comment yesterday.

John D. Cox, one of Wiseman's lawyers, said he does not believe Wiseman's case is the one that prompted Stoltz's removal from the ministry. Cox said Wiseman said he told no one about his claim, other than a friend, before filing suit.

Stoltz was removed as sacramental moderator from St. William Church in Old Louisville on June 17 by Archbishop Thomas Kelly, acting on a policy adopted by the nation's bishops in June requiring that any priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against him be removed from ministry.

In a brief statement released in June, the archdiocese said Stoltz had been evaluated in 1990 and placed on restricted ministry after a person came forward about an incident of child abuse from the 1970s. Stoltz was ordained in 1973.

In a letter to St. William parishioners, Stoltz said he had undergone extensive counseling and treatment, and had become "a much happier, healthier person."

Stoltz didn't elaborate on the allegation in his letter, other than to say he had been forced to confront it some 15 years later, make an apology, seek forgiveness and make amends.

"As a very young priest, I used some very poor judgment and made some terrible mistakes," he wrote.


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