Evansville Courier & Press [Evansville IN]
April 27, 2021
By Jon Webb
A Western Kentucky priest who was reinstated by the Vatican last week after two allegations of sexual abuse against a minor is still barred from entering a school.
In a statement posted to its website Monday, the Diocese of Owensboro announced Joseph Edward “Ed” Bradley, who served as dean of students and later principal of Owensboro Catholic High School in the 1980s, could resume priestly duties after the Vatican overrode a recommendation from Bishop William Medley that Bradley be suspended permanently.
Bradley maintains his innocence.
The Vatican’s ruling vaguely noted that Bradley engaged in “imprudent behavior … throughout the course of his ministry in education.” It declared he is “forbidden to enter any primary or secondary school for a period of five years.”
For Cal Pfeiffer, a spokesman for the Kentucky branch of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), that raised an important question: “who is going to make sure he doesn’t?”
Tina Kasey, the diocese’s director of communications, relayed that question to Medley on Tuesday. The Courier & Press didn’t receive a response before deadline, and the diocese declined to comment on the Bradley case beyond its initial statement.
Bradley had been suspended since March 2019. That winter, the diocese received two reports accusing him of sexual abuse against a minor. The allegations stemmed from his time at Owensboro Catholic in the 1980s.
The diocesan review board later recommended the allegations be deemed substantiated. Medley accepted the ruling, but Bradley’s lawyers appealed to the Vatican, and his reinstatement arrived more than two years after his suspension.
Bradley was the priest for Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Henderson, Kentucky, from 1995 to 2011. He also served as the men’s basketball teams’ chaplain during Rick Pitino’s stints at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.
By the time the allegations became public, he was officially retired and working as a volunteer chaplain at Owensboro Catholic. The accusations were passed on to Owensboro police, but Bradley never faced any criminal charges.
During an interview with 14 News on Monday, the priest maintained his innocence.
“I am so happy I can hardly talk,” he said.
Pfeiffer said the Vatican’s ruling leaves confusion and uncertainty in its wake.
“Why did the Vatican go about it differently than (Owensboro) did?” he said. “Why did it take them so long? And the question is, how thoroughly did they review it? Did they talk to people in Owensboro?
“That’s the problem. They don’t give out any information, so you don’t know why they make contrary decisions.”
He called for both the Owensboro diocese and the Vatican to share any information they could. Openness, he said, would benefit everyone.
“They need to have some transparency (for the public). Also to support the priest,” he said. “If it’s true they found out nothing was going on, they should have something substantial clearing his name. Not doing that still leaves a big cloud.”