Clergy Abuse Group Asks Archdiocese to Do More

By Chris Kenning
The Courier-Journal
December 8, 2016

Cal Pfeiffer, right, speaks during a press conference held by members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, at the Archdiocese of Louisville on Thursday.

In the wake of a Louisville priest's conviction for molesting a child, a victim's advocacy group on Thursday called on the Archdiocese of Louisville to better publicize clergy convictions among parishioners and do more to urge other possible victims to come forward.

Several members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, visited archdiocese headquarters Thursday to deliver that message after former Trinity High teacher Father Joseph Hemmerle was convicted on Nov. 30 in Meade County of molesting a boy at a Catholic summer camp in the 1970s. A second accuser's trial is slated for next year.

The group asked through a letter that Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz "put on their diocesan websites the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics" and that the Archdiocese use parish bulletins, church websites, pulpit announcements and personal visits to “seek out those with knowledge or suspicions about Father Hemmerle’s crimes and beg them to call law enforcement."

"Rarely is it just one or two. So many kids went through that camp. There is a good chance others are out there," said Cal Pfeiffer, a member of SNAP in Louisville. "They need to reach out and urge (any potential victims) to come forward."

Pfeiffer also called on the archdiocese to look into an out-of-state clergy abuse case in which one media report suggested the perpetrator might have studied in Kentucky.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Cecelia Price said that while no list exists on its website, the archdiocese does in various ways urge victims to come forward and contact the police and church officials. That includes a dedicated victim assistance coordinator, annual training to spot and report abuse, and stories about convictions in an archdiocese newspaper.

"As a result of all of this work, clergy and staff in our parishes and schools are much better equipped to recognize and address possible victims and have much better resources to assist victims and families," she said.

Members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, exit the Archdiocese of Louisville headquarters, The Chancery, in Louisville, on Thursday. (Photo: Frankie Steele, Special to the CJ)

Louisville was part of a national Catholic clergy abuse scandal in the early 2000s that saw sexual abuse allegations against dozens of priests. The archdiocese settled a class action lawsuit with 243 plaintiffs in 2003 for more than $25 million.

Last week, Hemmerle, 74, was convicted on one of two counts of immoral or indecent practices with a child following his 2014 indictment on charges of sex abuse and sodomy for an incident in 1973 at Camp Tall Trees near Otter Creek Park.

His accuser, Michael Norris, 53, of Texas, alerted the archdiocese and Kentucky State Police in 2001 of the incident, but no charges were brought until another accuser from the camp came forward in 2014.

"It is important for the archdiocese to begin taking responsible actions toward eliminating child sexual abuse," Norris said Thursday by phone. "They have direct access to parishioners and the ability to quickly raise awareness through better communication. All of these requests are low cost and can be effective in ensuring no one else is hurt and that those who are suffering from abuse have an outlet to heal."

Hemmerle is out on bond and slated to be sentenced in February.

"Father Hemmerle is a priest, but he remains on leave from ministry and is not permitted to present himself publicly as a priest, pending the results of his criminal cases," Price said. "Once the criminal process is completed, the church process will proceed to address his status as a priest."

Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at or 502-582-4697.








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