Abuse Victims See Only Partial Justice
Many Still Want Archdiocese Held Accountable

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
April 1, 2003

They sat stoically in court yesterday, many of them in their middle years, decades removed from the sacristies, rectories and other locations where they say they were molested by the Rev. Louis E. Miller.

They listened as the now-retired priest uttered the word "yes" 50 times, each time admitting a different charge of fondling or otherwise sexually abusing children. "I plead guilty," he concluded.

For Miller's victims, it was a day of justice -- in part. They have seen Miller admit his abuse, but they also want the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville called to account for keeping Miller in ministry -- even though his own writings in a psychological journal say the church knew of accusations against him.

"I've waited 30 years to hear him say that," said Mary C. Miller of Louisville, a niece of the priest and one of 21 people Miller admitted abusing in a guilty plea yesterday. "It's still sad. I know victims who can't even talk about it. My hope is they will come forward and begin healing."

Timothy Baker, another of the victims, said that when Miller sexually molested him more than 40 years ago, he was too scared to tell anyone, afraid Miller would expel him from Holy Spirit School. Baker said he was unaware until recently that more than 30 of his fellow students also allege they were abused by Miller.

"A lot of what went on with the abuse we did not share with our fellow classmates because of threats by Father Miller, that if we told, bad things would happen," he said.

Andrew Corcoran, one of 85 plaintiffs who have sued the archdiocese over alleged abuse by Miller, agreed.

"I don't know that Father Miller is the issue," said Corcoran, a Holy Spirit School graduate who was not among those named as victims in the criminal indictment. "Our issue is the system that allowed this to take place for decade after decade after decade."

In all, more than 200 people have sued the archdiocese, alleging sexual abuse by priests and others associated with the church.

J. Boswell Tabler, a Louisville psychiatrist and a plaintiff who says Miller abused him at Holy Spirit School, called for further investigation of how the church has dealt with priests who might have abused children.

"We need to seek out and identify and hold accountable anyone who had any knowledge whatsoever of this behavior," Tabler said. "Why was Father Miller allowed to remain a priest for so long? Why was he allowed to abuse children over decades? Who knew about it, and why wasn't he stopped? We need to correct the system so it never happens again to another child in this community."

The plaintiffs yesterday called for more reforms within the church on dealing with abusers, including consulting with alleged victims and other lay people on allegations against priests and educating children about how to avoid abuse.

Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese, acknowledged in an interview yesterday that the church "has to do more to rebuild the trust within the whole community and not just these particular victims."

He said the archdiocese is reviewing how it conducts background checks and educates youths about preventing abuse. "I agree with the folks today who are saying to you that the voice of the victims must be heard in the review process, and that is being done," Reynolds said.

Several plaintiffs have said they or their parents made allegations of abuse by Miller to church authorities over the decades. Miller's own therapeutic journals indicate that he was removed from four parish assignments between 1961 and 1990 amid allegations of abuse.

Archbishop Thomas Kelly removed him from official ministry with children in 1990 after learning of accusations against him. Miller then worked as a retirement-home chaplain until last year and sometimes led services at parishes where children were present

"The thing that's so despicable about this whole situation is that these church elders held us in the last regard," said Jim Strader, a plaintiff and Holy Spirit graduate.

Asked why victims hadn't come forward sooner than the past 12 months, Strader said: "We thought this man was put away a long time ago. We were told as children that he was removed, that he would never molest any other children. We find out 40some-odd years later . . . that he was still out there preying on everybody."

Staff writer Greg Hall contributed to this story.

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