Church Faces 14 More Abuse Suits
Andrew Wolfson

Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
June 8, 2002

Fourteen new lawsuits were filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville yesterday, alleging sexual abuse of children by priests and by a Franciscan brother for the first time.

The suits bring to 119 the number of complaints filed against the archdiocese in alleged abuse cases since mid-April.

Among the new suits is one naming the Rev. Kevin Cole, involving an incident that allegedly occurred while he was teaching at what would become Bellarmine University.

The suit filed by Joetta Stone Blair, now 46, alleges that Cole sexually abused her in 1962 and 1963 when she was 6 and 7 years old.

In an interview, Blair and her mother, Eleanor McHargue, said the girl's father, Dean Stone, immediately went to see Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, the school's president, after learning about one of the incidents.

"He promised to do something, but the church never did," Blair said.

Horrigan, who is 87, said in an interview yesterday that he talked with Cole but did not report the matter to the archdiocese after Cole told him he had an appointment with a psychiatrist. Horrigan said he thought "that would give him the treatment he needed." Horrigan also said he never heard of any other complaints against Cole.

Cole is accused of later abusing two other girls, according to lawsuits filed in Jefferson Circuit Court against the archdiocese.

The plaintiffs in those cases, Shannon Shaughnessy Age and Deborah Shaughnessy Ernspiker, alleged in suits filed May 21 that Cole abused them between 1968 and 1970 at St. Luke Church in Louisville. Cole, who taught at Bellarmine from 1959 to 1968 and served from 1970 to 1973 at Our Lady of Consolation, died in 1991.

Horrigan, Bellarmine's first president, retired in 1973. He lives at Christopher East Health Care Facility.

The other suits filed yesterday include the third naming Bishop J. Kendrick Williams of the Diocese of Lexington and the first complaints naming a Franciscan brother, Francis Dominic.

The new filings also include two more suits against the Rev. Louis Miller, including one complaint filed by a nephew; five more against the Rev. Arthur L. Wood, who died in 1983; one more against the Rev. Thomas Creagh, who resigned recently as pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church after he was named in another lawsuit; and two more against the Rev. Robert Dollinger, who is retired.

Thirteen suits were filed by William McMurry, the lawyer who represents most of the plaintiffs suing the archdiocese; one complaint, against Dollinger, was filed by attorney Douglas C. Ragan.

The new complaints bring to 119 the number filed since mid-April against the archdiocese. The suits allege that priests and other employees abused children, but the archdiocese is the lone defendant. It is accused of failing to report illegal conduct to police, failing to properly discipline and supervise employees, and failing to warn children and their parents.

Here are the details:

* Thomas C. Probus alleges that in 1981, when he was about 12 and having problems at home, he went to see Williams, then-pastor of Holy Trinity Church and School, and Williams asked him: "Have you ever masturbated? It's a wonderful experience and when you do, come and tell me about it." David Hall, one of the two previous plaintiffs to name Williams, also said he asked about masturbation before fondling Hall during confession.

Thomas E. Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the Lexington diocese, said it would not discuss the allegations. He said Williams, who has vigorously denied any misconduct, is on a leave of absence in keeping with diocesan policy that requires priests to be removed from public duties while an accusation is pending.

* Scott Hagerman and Frank Selent Jr. allege that Francis Dominic, a Francisan brother who worked at Our Lady of Consolation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, molested Hagerman when he was 6 and 7 years old and Selent when he was about 12 years old. Dominic, whose birth name was Anthony Salomone, was a member of the order of Conventual Franciscans from 1969 to 1980, according to Brother Robert Baxter, a spokesman. Dominic was sent to a retreat house in Minnesota in the mid-1970s and served in the order's Chicago province from 1978 to 1989, when he left the order. Baxter said he was unable to locate Dominic or determine if he is still alive. The Courier-Journal also was unable to contact him.

* Stephen M. Rowe Sr. and Mark A. Miller Sr. allege they were abused by the Rev. Miller, who has been named in 47 suits. Mark Miller, who lives in Washington state and is Louis Miller's nephew, contends he was abused when Miller was assigned to the St. Aloysius parish in Pewee Valley from 1973 to 1975. McMurry said the incidents occurred at family gatherings and in private homes. Miller has denied allegations made in previous suits.

* Gary Biven, Ronald L. Snipp, Gregory L. Messina, Scott A. Dickens and Francis J. Weiss allege they were molested by Wood, who has been named in 27 lawsuits. The plaintiffs contend they were abused at various locations; Dickens, for example, says that when he was about 14 and attending DeSales High School, Wood enticed him in 1978 or 1979 to his apartment near the former SS. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, where he was chaplain.

* Samuel L. Evans alleges that Creagh abused him in 1979 on an overnight trip at a cabin owned by Creagh and some other priests. Attempts to reach Creagh have been unsuccessful.

* Jerome Schlafer and Charles Edward Sims allege they were abused by Dollinger - Schlafer at St. Thomas Church and School in Bardstown and Sims at St. Leo the Great Church and School in Louisville's Highland Park neighborhood. Dollinger lives in Canada and could not be reached for comment.

Cecelia Price, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.