Eleven More Sue, Alleging Molestation
Archdiocese Now Faces 32 Complaints

By Wolfson Andrew
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
May 9, 2002

Eleven more people - including a psychiatrist and two men who say they were molested by hospital chaplains - have sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, alleging that it knew for decades that priests were sexually abusing children but did nothing to report or stop them.

The lawsuits include two filed by women who contend that they were molested in 1959, the earliest allegation so far in 32 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.

In one of the complaints filed yesterday, John Bell, 44, contends that when he was 13 and visiting a patient at SS. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, the Rev. Arthur L. Wood lured him across the street to his apartment and molested him. Bell's suit says Wood, who died in 1983, continued to do that for a year, enticing him with money and alcohol.

Another plaintiff, Donald A. Sullivan, 51, alleges that in 1964, when he was 13 and a visiting altar boy at the hospital, he was abused by the Rev. Louis E. Miller.

"They say that time heals all wounds, but I'm not so sure of that," said Bell, a car salesman. "Everybody wishes they would win the lottery. I wish I could be 13 years old and not have to go through this again."

Miller has previously denied wrongdoing. Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The new complaints include one filed by Dr. J. Boswell Tabler, 52, a Louisville psychiatrist, who alleges that he was abused in the early 1960s by Miller at Holy Spirit School.

William McMurry, the attorney handling most of the lawsuits, said the willingness of a physician to go public should encourage others to come forward.

"It is very embarrassing but it is also kind of a release of a burden I had to carry around for years," said Tabler, who is in private practice. "I can finally offload it. I also have spent a good deal of my professional life telling patients they need to deal with demons from the past, yet I hadn't done that myself. It was kind of hypocritical."

The flood of litigation began April 14, when The CourierJournal reported about two lawsuits involving Miller in the 1990s that had been settled.

McMurry said the complaints show the archdiocese moved priests from schools to hospital posts after parents complained about them, then moved the priests back to schools after a number of years went by with no complaints during their time as chaplains.

The 32 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese since the middle of last month allege misconduct by one teacher and six priests.

Asked if the archdiocese had enough assets to cover its potential exposure, Price said, "At this time, our major concern is reaching out to victims and restoring trust among the Catholic people, not the potential financial impact of these lawsuits."

Among the priests named in the lawsuits filed yesterday is the late Rev. John Elder. It was the first time he has been accused in a lawsuit.

Two women, Diana Sewell Spencer, 52, and Loretta Robinson, 53, allege that Elder abused them in 1959 at St. John Church and School when they both were 10. Spencer attended that school, and Robinson was a frequent visitor, the lawsuit says.

Elder died in 1993, Price said.

In the complaints filed yesterday:

— In addition to Bell, three plaintiffs - Steven Mudd, H. Douglas Dukes Jr. and Dennis Vessels - allege they were abused by Wood. Vessels said he was molested at St. Elizabeth of Hungary; Dukes and Mudd said they were abused at St. Polycarp.

— Michael P. Sheehan, now 35, said he was at Trinity High School in December 1983 when the Rev. Thomas Creagh picked him up at school and drove him to St. Albert the Great Church, where Creagh was pastor, and molested the teenager in the rectory.

Sheehan said he knew Creagh from the St. Leonard parish. Creagh resigned this week from Holy Family Catholic Church, where he had been pastor since 1999, in the wake of another lawsuit filed last week.

At Mass on Sunday, Creagh said he had been accused, but neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.

— Two more plaintiffs - Christopher H. Spalding and Brian Bohannon - joined two who had earlier accused the Rev. Daniel C. Clark of molesting them at St. Rita Church and School. Clark pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexual abuse and sodomy. He was permanently removed from public ministry at that time, Price said.


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