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  Eight Priests Removed by Archdiocese
Louisville's Kelly Applies New Rules in Sex-Abuse Cases

By Peter Smith
Courier-Journal [Louisville, KY]
October 20, 2002

Newly released documents from the Archdiocese of Louisville indicate that church leaders have found some truth to accusations of sexual abuse against eight of its priests.

In nearly identical letters notifying the eight priests in July that they were being permanently removed from ministry, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly wrote that, as required by a stricter policy on abuse adopted by Catholic bishops in June in Dallas, their removal followed "the admission or substantiation of any instance of sexual abuse of a minor."

All eight are among those named in 186 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese this year, alleging sexual abuse by priests and workers.

The Vatican last week called for further review of the bishops' policy, raising the question of whether it would be revised to enable some priests to return to ministry despite past abuse. But Kelly said Friday that the bishops plan to continue applying the policy while an AmericanVatican task force reviews it.

The archdiocese previously has declined to discuss the details of any of the allegations raised this year. In official court filings responding to the lawsuits, it has said it does not have enough information to say whether the allegations against particular priests are true.

Under the Dallas policy, such removals from ministry are permanent, though Kelly's letters said he would contact the priests if the Vatican made changes in the policy that could affect their status.

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price declined to elaborate on the letters sent to the priests, saying the decision to remove a priest "is based upon a variety of factors. We cannot discuss (them) case by case because of pending criminal and civil cases."

There is no indication in Kelly's letters, for example, whether he based his decisions on some or all of the allegations in lawsuits, on criminal charges or on other information that hasn't surfaced in court.

Three of the eight priests permanently removed from ministry face criminal charges: Louis E. Miller, Daniel Clark and James Hargadon. The others are Thomas Creagh, Joseph Herp and Joseph Stoltz - each of whom left jobs as parish priests earlier this year because of allegations of abuse - and retired priests Robert Dollinger and Edwin Scherzer.

They represent 4 percent of the archdiocese's 182 priests.

The archdiocese provided copies of the letters sent to the eight priests, dated July 22 or 23, to attorney William McMurry, who represents the vast majority of the plaintiffs suing the archdiocese. McMurry, who requested the documents as part of his investigation into the claims, provided The Courier-Journal with copies last week.

In the case of four of the eight priests - Creagh, Herp, Hargadon and Scherzer - the archdiocese previously said they were removed from ministry pending investigations and did not comment on the merits of the accusations or say whether the removals were permanent.

However, the archdiocese has previously said that Stoltz was removed after acknowledging sexual misconduct with a minor, and that it permanently removed Clark and Dollinger from public ministry several years ago and Miller this year because of accusations against them.

In all, the suits against the archdiocese name 25 priests, two religious brothers, two schoolteachers and a volunteer football coach.

Of the 25 priests, 11 are under the archdiocese's supervision, including the eight removed from ministry. The others have either died, left the priesthood or moved to other dioceses.

Among the other three still with the archdiocese, two - the Revs. J. Irvin Mouser and John Magel - have been temporarily removed from ministry; the other, the Rev. Robert Gray, was returned to ministry after police said they could not substantiate the sole allegation against him.

Under terms of the policy agreed to by the bishops this June in Dallas, the eight men removed from ministry technically remain priests, but Kelly's letters instructed them "not to celebrate Mass publicly, to wear clerical garb, or present yourself as a priest."

The archdiocese will continue to provide "appropriate compensation and support," the letters continue, and will offer counseling to the priests, who are to "lead a life of prayer and penance."

The priests are not expected to seek any outside work, and must get approval from the archdiocese for any activities and living arrangements, Price said. "The degree of monitoring needed will be determined on a caseby-case basis," she said.

In his letters to Creagh, Clark, Herp and Stoltz, Kelly said the priests have the option to request dismissal from the priesthood, if they wish. No priests have made such a request, which would require Vatican approval, Price said. Kelly did not mention that option in his letters to the other priests, who are retired.

Here is a summary of the priests' cases.

Miller had been restricted from ministry with children and worked as a retirement-home chaplain after the archdiocese received an allegation against him in 1989. While the archdiocese received other allegations against him over the years, it did not publicly acknowledge he had been accused of abuse until after he retired this year, when dozens of accusers came forward. Kelly then barred him from ministry. Miller faces 57 criminal abuse charges in Jefferson and Oldham counties, and is accused of abuse in 70 lawsuits.

The archdiocese said it removed Clark from public ministry after he pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing two boys, though he still was allowed to present himself as a priest, which is now forbidden under the Dallas policy. Clark is in Bullitt County Jail awaiting trial on four new charges of sexual abuse, and he is accused in 18 lawsuits.

The archdiocese said earlier this year that Kelly barred Dollinger from ministry in 1994, after hearing complaints of past abuse. Dollinger, who lives in Canada, is now accused in four lawsuits.

Kelly removed Stoltz as sacramental moderator at St. William Church in June for a decades-old incident of abuse that Stoltz has previously admitted. His was the only case in which Kelly publicly announced he was permanently removing a priest from ministry under the Dallas policy. Stoltz has since been accused in one lawsuit.

Creagh resigned as pastor of Holy Family Church in May after being named in the first of four lawsuits. He has declined to confirm or deny any allegations.

Herp resigned as pastor of St. Leonard Church in Louisville in May after the archdiocese received a complaint against him. Herp has since been accused in two suits. Police also investigated claims against Herp in 1988 and 1990, when he was Louisville police chaplain, but did not bring charges. He has not commented publicly.

Hargadon retired from full-time work in 1998 and from part-time work earlier this year, shortly before being accused in the first of four lawsuits. Hargadon has pleaded innocent to one criminal charge of sexual abuse in Jefferson County.

Scherzer, who is retired, is accused in two lawsuits.

None of the eight priests could be reached for comment. Price said they have indicated they do not want to be contacted by media. Attorney David Lambertus, who represents Miller, Clark and Hargadon, also declined to comment on their behalf.

The removal of the eight priests is "fairly high" for a single diocese, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, although it is not unprecedented.

A survey by The New York Times in August found that 31 bishops had removed 114 priests since the Dallas meeting, including nine in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., six in the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., and four in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

Removal of priests from ministry "certainly is a first step, but it's only a first step," said Clohessy, who has called for bishops to take other measures, such as reporting abusive priests to other priests, disciplining bishops who assign known abusers to parish ministries and teaching sexualabuse prevention to children.

 
 

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