Seven New Suits Are Filed against Archdiocese
Yesterday's Claims Alleging Sex Abuse
By Hall Gregory
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
June 1, 2002
Seven new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests were filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville yesterday, including the second naming Bishop J. Kendrick Williams of the Diocese of Lexington.
With yesterday's filings, the archdiocese is facing 104 lawsuits brought since mid-April over allegations involving priests and other employees. All but one - the lawsuit filed yesterday accusing Williams of abusing an 18-year-old high school senior - involve allegations against children.
Also yesterday, Jefferson Circuit Chief Judge James Shake said he will rule that one judge should decide the constitutionality of a 1998 state law requiring that some civil cases be sealed from the public when filed. The law covers civil cases that contain allegations of child sexual abuse or assault that occurred five or more years ago and would constitute a felony if prosecuted.
None of the complaints filed recently included a motion required by the state law that would result in the cases being sealed automatically at the time of filing.
The archdiocese is seeking to have the lawsuits covered by that state law sealed. William McMurry, the attorney for most of the plaintiffs, and The Courier-Journal are opposing the request.
Shake's ruling, possibly including naming a judge to hear the matter, could come as early as Tuesday.
None of yesterday's filings accused any member of the clergy of abuse who hadn't already been named in at least one of the earlier lawsuits. In all, 15 priests are accused, as are a teacher and a deacon. None of them is named as a defendant.
Besides the complaint involving Williams, three of yesterday's lawsuits include allegations involving the retired Rev. Louis E. Miller. Monsignor Robert A. Bowling, who now works in Reno, Nev., and the Rev. James Hargadon and the Rev. Robert Dollinger, both of whom are retired, are named in the remaining three.
All seven of yesterday's plaintiffs are represented by attorney McMurry, who also represents nearly all of the other plaintiffs who have sued the archdiocese.
Mirroring language in the previously filed lawsuits, yesterday's filings allege that the priests "engaged in a pattern" of sexually abusing children and that archdiocesan officials knew about the alleged abuse and did nothing to sanction the priest or inform others. The suits, however, do not offer evidence of the claim about church officials.
In the suit involving Williams, David Hall alleges that he was in confession when Williams, then a priest, asked Hall whether he masturbated and requested details. The suit against Williams says Hall was a senior at St. Catherine High School in New Haven at the time.
The lawsuit also claims that Williams, about a month later, insisted that Hall attend confession, which he "reluctantly" did. The suit alleges that Williams asked Hall about his sex life with girls, and, after Hall responded, Williams asked the student to unzip his pants and fondled the student.
Williams served at St. Catherine Church from 1965 to '71 and also served as a high school teacher and counselor during the time, according to a 1988 copy of his curriculum vitae on file in The Courier-Journal's library.
Williams was a priest of the Louisville archdiocese at the time of the allegation. He later served as auxiliary bishop for the Covington diocese from 1984-88, and has been bishop of the Lexington diocese since its creation in 1988.
The bishop, in accordance with his diocese's policy, removed himself from public ministry when the first lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by him was filed last month. Williams denied that allegation.
Tom Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the Lexington diocese, declined to comment on yesterday's lawsuit, saying that Williams is out of town and could not be reached.
The state law under which the archdiocese is trying to seal cases applies to allegations involving children under age 18. "That statute will have no application here," McMurry said.
In the new case involving Bowling, Grace Newton Vernon, now 53, says that in 1961 while a student at Holy Cross Church and School in the community of Holy Cross in Marion County, Ky., where Bowling was assigned, he sexually abused her.
The lawsuit is the third alleging sexual abuse by Bowling. He has denied the allegations in the first two lawsuits and said he is returning to Kentucky from Reno, where he is a pastor, to clear his name.
Attempts to reach Bowling by phone yesterday were unsuccessful.
In the three lawsuits accusing Miller:
— Rick L. Huber Sr. alleges that in the early 1960s when he was about 12 and 13 and in the seventh and eighth grades at St. Athanasius School, Miller sexually assaulted him.
— L. Thomas Hulsewede, now 56, alleges that in the mid-to-late 1950s when he was an altar boy at Holy Spirit Church, Miller molested him.
— John F. Robertson, now 52, alleges that Miller molested him in the early 1960s when he was an altar boy at Holy Spirit.
A call to Miller at his residence was not returned yesterday.
In the other two lawsuits filed yesterday:
— Robert R. Schlafer alleges that in the 1960s, Dollinger abused him. The complaint does not give details of the location of the abuse or Schlafer's age.
In an interview, McMurry said that Schlafer is related to Dollinger and that his client alleges there was was more than one incident of abuse when Schlafer was a minor.
Dollinger lives in Canada, according to the archdiocese. He did not respond to a copy of the suit or a request for comment that was faxed to the only number Dollinger had in the archdiocesan directory.
— Jeffery T. Scott, now 41, alleges that Hargadon molested him in 197778. The lawsuit says Hargadon was assigned then to St. Polycarp Church and School.
Reached at his residence, Hargadon said, "I have no comment."
Cecelia Price, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on the allegations in the new litigation, citing an archdiocesan policy.
The filings allege that the priests "engaged in a pattern" of abusing children and that officials knew about the alleged abuse and took no action.
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