4 More Women Claim Sex Abuse
Plaintiffs Name Sisters of Charity
By Smith Peter
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
July 26, 2004
Four more women brought accusations yesterday against the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, alleging they were sexually abused by a priest at an Anchorage orphanage run by the order of Roman Catholic nuns.
One of the women also alleges physical abuse by several nuns at the orphanage and two schools.
The actions bring to 16 the number of adults who have sued the order this month in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging that nuns committed abuse and tolerated abuse by others from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Three of the plaintiffs, Deborah Hager and Rebecca Wathen, both 46, and Janet Zaepfel , 61, alleged that they were sexually abused by Monsignor Herman J. Lammers, who was resident chaplain at the now-closed St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage.
Several other plaintiffs have accused Lammers in the current round of lawsuits and in previous cases against the Archdiocese of Louisville that have been settled.
Lammers, who died in 1986, also directed the archdiocese's Catholic Charities agency. The archdiocese owned the orphanage, which the Sisters of Charity operated.
Hager, Wathen and Zaepfel joined a lawsuit with 12 other plaintiffs represented by attorney William McMurry.
Another attorney, Victor Tackett Jr., filed a separate lawsuit against the order on behalf of the fourth woman filing yesterday, Barbara Moseley.
Moseley, 53, alleges that Lammers sexually abused her and that four nuns physically abused her.
She said two nuns, identified as Sister Joseph Anthony and Sister Charles, abused her at the orphanage.
Barbara Qualls, spokeswoman for the Sisters of Charity, confirmed that nuns by those names worked at the orphanage in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sister Joseph Anthony left the order in 1972, and Sister Charles has died, she said.
Moseley also alleged abuse by a Sister Jean at Presentation Academy and a Sister Arthur at Holy Spirit School.
Qualls confirmed that a Sister Jean worked at Presentation and has since left the order. But she said the Sisters of Charity did not have nuns at Holy Spirit School.
Qualls said the order had no record of complaints about such abuse until recently. She said the order reiterated "its concern for these individuals" bringing the lawsuits but declined to comment on the specifics of the litigation.
The lawsuits allege that the Sisters of Charity concealed sexual abuse that occurred on their watch and that the statute of limitations, or time limits on filing lawsuits, over decades-old events should not apply.
But the attorneys disagree on the legal standing of lawsuits alleging physical abuse.
McMurry said he has been contacted by many people alleging "brutal physical abuse" at St. Thomas-St. Vincent and other orphanages.
But "administrators of these orphanages did nothing to cover up or hide physical abuse," he said, and therefore the statute of limitations has expired.
Tackett, however, alleges in the lawsuit that he filed that the Sisters of Charity covered up both physical and sexual abuse.
Constitutional law scholar Sam Marcosson of the University of Louisville said that "concealment is the linchpin" of any argument that a statute of limitations should be suspended.
Marcosson, associate dean of the Brandeis School of Law, said a plaintiff could try to prove that the order concealed evidence of physical abuse.
McMurry alleged a cover-up by the Archdiocese of Louisville as grounds to sue it for alleged sexual abuse by priests and others associated with the church.
The plaintiffs settled last year for $25.7million before that argument could be tested, and courts have issued mixed opinions in individual cases.
McMurry argues that until now, the Sisters of Charity engaged in their own cover-up.
Marcosson, however, said the Sisters of Charity could argue that, because the order and the archdiocese worked closely together, any alleged cover-up ended two years ago with the first lawsuits against the archdiocese.
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