11 More Suits Claiming Abuse
Filed against Archdiocese
By Gregory A. Hall
August 23, 2002
Eleven more lawsuits were filed yesterday against the Archdiocese of Louisville,
alleging that priests and a volunteer football coach at Catholic grade
schools sexually abused children.
The suit naming the coach, Louis Holzknecht, is the first civil action
to accuse him of abuse, although he faces criminal charges in other child-abuse
cases. All the other lawsuits filed in Jefferson Circuit Court yesterday
involve allegations against priests who are mentioned in earlier litigation.
None of the alleged abusers are named as defendants in the lawsuits filed
yesterday, which bring the number of cases filed against the archdiocese
since April to 183.
The criminal charges against Holzknecht involve allegations of abuse by
two victims - one in an incident between 1988 and 1992 and the other in
January 2002. Holzknecht has pleaded innocent and is being held in the
Jefferson County jail.
The civil case filed yesterday by Patrick T. Hughes dates back to about
1966, when it says Holzknecht was a coach at Most Blessed Sacrament School,
where Hughes was a student and athlete. The lawsuit says that Holzknecht
sexually abused Hughes, now 45, when he was in the third and fourth grades.
In an interview yesterday, Hughes said the abuse occurred on three or
four occasions at Iroquois Park, where Holzknecht took him when he was
the last person in a carpool to be dropped off.
Hughes also said he told a priest in confession that he had been abused
by Holzknecht and gave the priest names of other students in the carpool,
whom he suspected also were abused. His father later contacted someone
at the rectory, and was told the situation would be handled, Hughes said.
When Holzknecht was gone the next football season, Hughes said he and
his family assumed the coach had been turned in to police. He didn't know
that Holzknecht had coached again until the criminal charges were filed
this year, Hughes said.
The lawsuit refers to Holzknecht as an employee of the archdiocese.
Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said that Holzknecht was
never an employee, so the archdiocese cannot confirm where and when Holzknecht
Hughes' attorney, William McMurry, said whether Holzknecht was an employee
or a volunteer isn't significant because the church had a duty to protect
All of the suits filed yesterday say that the archdiocese knew or should
have known of an alleged pattern of abuse by its priests or other employees.
The archdiocese has denied that allegation in previously filed lawsuits.
Price declined to comment yesterday on the latest lawsuits' allegations.
In the other suits filed yesterday:
-- Three allege abuse by the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who is named in approximately
70 other suits and is also facing abuse charges in Oldham and Jefferson
counties. An attempt to reach Miller yesterday was unsuccessful. He has
pleaded innocent in the criminal cases.
Rick Renfro, 40, who is named as a victim in the Oldham County criminal
case, filed suit, saying Miller molested him when he was a student at
St. Aloysius School in Pewee Valley.
M. Craig Schadt, 32, says in a suit that in the early 1980s Miller abused
him while working at St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Mark Franklin Bowman, 49, says that Miller abused him "in a confessional
setting" in 1964 at SS. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, where the boy
had been admitted for surgery. Miller was the hospital's chaplain.
-- Two lawsuits name the Rev. Robert A. Bowling, who is now on leave in
the Reno, Nev., diocese.
Margaret "Peggy" Langness Wheat, 56, says in her suit that around
1955 or 1956, Bowling sexually abused her on multiple occasions at St.
Rita Church. The lawsuit said that her family told church officials in
1956 or 1957 of the abuse and that Bowling was then moved to St. Joseph
Preparatory School in Bardstown.
Price said the archdiocese has no reports of abuse naming Bowling.
Deborah Quire Volz, 54, says in her suit that Bowling sexually abused
her in about 1956 when she was a student and fell on the playground and
was taken to a room to be seen by a nurse. When the nurse left, the complaint
says, Bowling entered and fondled her.
Bowling has denied allegations made in previous lawsuits.
-- Timothy Christopher Tharp, 32, says in his suit that the Rev. Daniel
Clark sexually abused him around 1984 when he was a parishioner at St.
John Vianney Church, where Clark was assigned.
Clark was convicted of sexual abuse and sodomy in 1988 and received a
sentence of 15 years with 90 days in jail and the rest of the sentence
He is currently charged in a criminal child sexual abuse case in Bullitt
County and is being held in the Bullitt County Jail.
Jailer Danny Fackler said Clark is refusing interview requests.
-- Janice Winter Marks, 43, says in her suit that the Rev. John Elder
sexually abused her in a women's restroom in 1973 when he was assigned
to St. Barnabas Church. Elder died in 1993.
-- Michael A. Clark says in his suit that the late Rev. Arthur L. Wood
abused him around 1964 when he was 11 and attending St. Elizabeth of Hungary
-- George Esterle's lawsuit claims that a Conventual Franciscan priest,
the Rev. Daniel Emerine, abused Esterle, now 54, around 1962 at St. Paul
That lawsuit names the Franciscan order, the Province of Our Lady of Consolation
Inc., as a defendant in addition to the archdiocese.
A spokesman for the Conventual Franciscans declined to comment about the
Ten of the 11 plaintiffs who filed yesterday are represented by McMurry.
-- The final lawsuit, filed by Belinda Diana Curl, 51, says that she was
abused in approximately 1963 when she was a resident at "St. Thomas
Home-St. Vincent Home-Our Lady's Home for the Infants." Curl is represented
by attorney Victor E. Tackett Jr.
Curl's suit names the Rev. H.J. Lammers as the priest who allegedly abused
Lammers, who is dead, was assigned to the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage
in Anchorage at the time mentioned in the lawsuit, Price said. Our Lady's
Home for Infants was never located in Anchorage, according to Price.