|Ex-Terre Haute Priest Admits to Molesting Children
By Sue Loughlin
December 14, 2007
TERRE HAUTE — A former Catholic priest who served parishes in Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Tell City has admitted to molesting at least five boys and playing sex games with others, says an attorney who has filed lawsuits on behalf of several victims.
The former priest, Harry Monroe, admitted to the sex acts in a pre-trial deposition filed as part of a case that goes to court Monday, the attorney said. Monroe is the subject of 13 sexual abuse lawsuits that also name the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as a co-defendant.
"It's a pretty strong deposition," said Pat Noaker, a Minnesota attorney who filed the lawsuits.
Ordained in 1974, Monroe served in five Indiana Catholic parishes until his priestly faculties were revoked in 1984 because of allegations of sexual misconduct.
Noaker says he can prove the Archdiocese knew Monroe was a threat to kids yet allowed him to be reassigned to other parishes, including St. Patrick's in Terre Haute.
In a hearing scheduled for Monday, the Archdiocese is requesting to have one of the lawsuits dismissed; it is arguing that the statute of limitations has expired.
Noaker said it's "disappointing" that the Archdiocese is trying to get a lawsuit thrown out on a technicality.
"[Monroe] is an admitted child molester. He admits to molesting kids while functioning as a priest," Noaker said. "It's time for [the Archdiocese] to bench their lawyers and instead get around to helping young men who've been hurt."
Monroe came to St. Patrick's Church in Terre Haute in 1979 after assignments in three Indianapolis parishes. He stayed in Terre Haute two years and served as the youth minister. After sex abuse allegations by several parishioners, Monroe was placed on leave for a year in mid-1981. He served what would be his final year as a priest in Perry County, serving three small parishes.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis had no comment on the litigation, said Greg Otolski, Archdiocese spokesman. "I haven't seen the deposition so I couldn't comment on it."
The Archdiocese has been helping people who say they've been victims of sexual abuse, he said.
"We ask those who have been abused or know of abuse to contact us," Otolski said. "We pay for counseling and other kinds of help … We don't try to determine much in the way of guilt or innocence. If someone needs help, we've been trying to help. We've been doing that for a long time."
As far as the Archdiocese trying to get a lawsuit dismissed on a technicality, Otolski said, "It's Indiana law. I don't think you can call the law a technicality. It will be up to a judge to decide that."
Jay Mercer, attorney for the Archdiocese, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Terre Haute resident Missi Limcaco, the mother of one of Monroe's alleged victims, read an article about Monroe's admissions, although she hadn't seen the deposition.
"It's a relief that at least he [Monroe] admitted it because that validates what all the victims have said," she said. "I think that's important … I would hope that would help in the healing of victims at this point."
Monroe said in the deposition that he has nothing to lose by talking about what happened.
In the deposition, he seems to attribute his behavior to alcohol, drugs and immaturity, but Limcaco maintains Monroe's actions were premeditated.
"He did this in a very adult manner and in a predatory manner," she said.
Based on what she's read, she's not sure he is taking full responsibility for his actions and the devastation he caused to victims, their families and friends.
She believes he should write to his victims and apologize.
Limcaco said she'd also like to see "more compassion for victims on the part of the church. It's such a struggle for them to have to deal with being put in this position of having to defend themselves. It's a shame it had to get to this point."
In 2005, she and her husband went public with their story about their late son Danny, who they allege was molested by Monroe when he was a priest and youth minister at St. Patrick's. Danny died on March 10, 1983 in a tool shed behind the family's Woodridge home; he had died from inhaling carbon monoxide from a running lawn mower.
In the deposition, Monroe states: "My whole life, I never wanted to hurt anybody. I've never had a desire in my life to hurt a single soul. And my behavior, I'm sure, has disappointed - I mean my mother died of grief because of all this stuff. You know, I'm responsible for that. So I'm ... if I could change my life and go back and change it, I would."
He later says in the deposition that "everybody here is covering somebody else's rear end and I'm covering mine. I'm not stupid enough not to know that. So I don't pretend that anybody here is my friend or that … anybody here really cares about me one way or the other. If I drop dead right now, it would probably be — benefit everyone. But I want to help as much as I can because I want to move through this."
He also said in the deposition that he did not have legal counsel because he could no longer afford one.
Monroe, who lives in Tennessee, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 231-4235
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