Indianapolis Priest Cleared in Abuse Inquiry

By Robert King
Indianapolis Star
March 7, 2006

A priest who is the subject of a sex abuse lawsuit has been reinstated to his Eastside parish after an archdiocesan review board found his accuser's allegations not credible.

The Rev. Carlton J. Beever, 57, is the first Indianapolis priest restored to ministry after sex abuse allegations since the archdiocese rewrote its policies in 2004. The revisions were intended to match guidelines set down by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the wake of the national priest sex abuse scandal.

Beever had spent 18 months away from his parish without pay until he appeared before the St. Philip Neri congregation Sunday with an archdiocesan official who declared Beever's innocence. Beever then presided over the day's Masses.

Beever and Thomas J. Amsden, a former priest who resigned from the ministry in 1995, have maintained their innocence since they were sued in July 2004 by a man who claimed both had abused him while he was an altar boy at a Greensburg parish in the 1970s.

"I've known from the beginning of our innocence. I've known that, and I've lived with it for three years," Amsden said Monday. "It has been extremely heartbreaking. It has been the absolutely worst thing that I have ever gone through."

A church review board that included former law enforcement officers and a former prosecutor cleared the priests of any wrongdoing.

"It is regrettable that Father Beever and Tom Amsden have had to live through such a painful experience," Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein said in a written statement. "They will need our prayers and support."

The archdiocese's declaration comes even as the lawsuit remains active in court. Pat Noaker, a Minnesota attorney representing the as-yet-unnamed accuser, disagreed with the finding that the claims were not credible.

Beever was not available for comment Monday. But his attorney, John Schiff, said the review board's investigation determined the allegations "were a sham." Both priests have asked for an apology and an admission that the claims were fabricated.

"We're hopeful the plaintiff will concede there is no truth to his allegations and that he will issue an appropriate retraction, that he will agree to dismiss his litigation and that he will issue an apology," Schiff said.

Schiff said depositions of the accuser and the accuser's former wife led to the conclusion the claims were not credible. He declined to elaborate.

"I think the more one turns over rocks, I think the more one finds," Schiff said.

Amsden resigned from the ministry in 1995 to get married and start a family. He and his wife began operating a day care out of their home. Then in 2002, he received a call from the archdiocese informing him of the allegations from the 1970s. "My world changed," he said.

Just recently Amsden, 64, said his attorney told him his accuser's story had been proven false.

Noaker said no one should expect a retraction or an apology from his client. And he said the archdiocese's decision to declare the allegations not credible was based on its own processes. But Noaker acknowledged that the case had taken its toll on the accuser.

"Our position at this point is that litigation is a very difficult process for anyone, let alone somebody who has been injured this severely," he said.

The man, who court records said was born in 1967, alleged in his lawsuit that he was abused at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, about 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis, from 1972 to 1977. Both priests were associate pastors at that parish, but not at the same time. Amsden was there from 1973 to 1977; Beever from 1977 to 1981. No criminal charges were ever filed.

In his suit, the man alleges that he suffered psychological damage and emotional distress that required therapy. Upon the suit's filing, Beever was placed on administrative leave. After 30 years in the ministry, he was forced to find employment outside the church.

Amsden said his child-care business was able to keep its customers but that his voluntary disclosure of the pending case probably cost the business some new customers.

"My lawyer said there is no winning this, even if they can't prove the allegations," Amsden said. "You still live with the fact that it has been said, and half of the people are going to believe and half are not."

Call Star reporter Robert King at (317) 444-6089.


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