Ky. Lawmaker Reveals Priest Abuse As a Youth

June 7, 2012

A long-serving Kentucky state lawmaker and child advocate has spoken publicly for the first time about the sexual abuse he suffered by a Catholic priest at his grade school in the 1940s.

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Democrat Tom Burch of Louisville wrote about the abuse in a letter to the editor published May 30 in the Lexington Herald-Leader. He was writing to condemn the Vatican for attempting to impose more control over Catholic nuns who Pope Benedict XVI felt had not been more vocal against gay marriage and abortion.

Burch, 80, wrote in the letter that nuns have been a loving and positive presence in his life.

"I was never sexually abused by a nun, but I was sexually abused by a priest," Burch wrote.

Burch told the newspaper ( ) he had privately revealed the abuse to some people but had never spoken publicly about it.

"I think that as political leaders, it's important that we do talk about these things," Burch said. "It's not something that you want to talk about so much, but it also shouldn't be a secret. Parents need to be more aware of what is going on and how to protect their children."

Burch did not name the now-deceased priest, saying there "is no good that can come from it." He also did not identify the parish where he attended church at the time of the abuse which happened while he was in the sixth and seventh grades.

"It was so subtle," he said of the abuse. "It was like a seduction." He said the priest, who was an assistant pastor in his parish, would buy him ice cream and come to his house. Burch was also invited to spend the night with the priest.

Burch said the priest knew he came from a home with a violent father and was vulnerable. The abuse went on for about 18 to 24 months.

After it ended, for the next two decades, Burch put the abuse out of his mind. When he was 39 as a young legislator in the 1970s, Burch said he finally realized what had happened to him.

"I was driving up to Frankfort one day, and it just hit me. It just all popped in my head," Burch said.

He has spent his career as a lawmaker sponsoring bills to protect children. In the late 1980s, Burch pushed a comprehensive sex education bill through the General Assembly. And in 1994, he helped sponsor bills that overhauled how sexual abuse was investigated and prosecuted.

Burch said he has never wanted to sue the Catholic Church, but he did eventually go to counseling.

The Archdiocese of Louisville released a statement to the newspaper saying that it could not release any information about alleged abuse without the permission of the victim.

Burch said he never lost faith in God, but is a frequent critic of the church and many of its doctrines.

"I still have faith in the church," Burch said. "But not always the people who run it."








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