Reno Priest Denies Kentucky Accusations

By Elaine Goodman
Reno Gazette-Journal
May 23, 2002

A Reno priest has been accused by two former parishioners in Kentucky of sexually abusing them more than 40 years ago while they were girls.

Monsignor Robert A. Bowling, pastor since 1974 of St. Therese the Little Flower Church at Plumb and Kietzke lanes, denied the allegations.

"They're bogus. They're a hoax," Bowling said Wednesday. Bowling, 74, said he's considering taking his own legal action in the matter.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court in Kentucky, Karen Newton Mouser claims Bowling forced her to expose herself to him during confession in 1962, when she was 11 years old.

Also on Tuesday, Janice Hicks Unseld said in court papers that she was "sexually molested, abused, battered and assaulted" by Bowling from 1960 to 1962, when she was 12 to 14 years old.

In separate complaints, the women are suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville for allegedly knowing about Bowling's "pattern and course of conduct of sexually abusing children under the age of 18" but not stopping it.

The alleged abuse occurred from 1958 to 1962 while Bowling was managing the Holy Cross Church and School in Loretto, Ky., about 45 miles southeast of Louisville, according to the lawsuits.

Brother Matthew Cunningham, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno, said local parishioners have made no claims of sexual misconduct against Bowling, who was ordained in 1954, moved to Las Vegas in 1969 and came to Reno two years later.

"We're surprised at the allegations," Cunningham said.

Diocese officials will review the allegations against Bowling when they return from a retreat this week to see hether there's any reason to place Bowling on leave, Cunningham said.

Bowling comes into contact with children in his role as church pastor, Cunningham said.

Bowling said in a telephone interview he was never alone with either of the women accusing him of abuse. He said children from the Kentucky school came as a group to confession, and there's no way he could have abused a child with a crowd of students, nuns and parents nearby.

Bowling questioned why the women waited 40 years to make their complaints and accused them of filing the lawsuits for financial gain.

The women said in the lawsuits that they became aware of the church's "conduct of concealment" from articles last month in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The women are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, as well as legal costs, in the two lawsuits.

The women's complaints are among 88 lawsuits filed since April 19 against the Louisville archdiocese, which has not commented on any of the suits.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II designated Bowling a "Prelate of Honor to His Holiness," a title that allows him to be addressed as "monsignor." The appointment entitles Bowling to wear distinctive vesturesimilar to a bishop's.

Under Bowling's stewardship, the Reno parish has grown from a 200-seat to a 900-seat church and includes an elementary school. About 3,500 families are in the parish.


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