Reno Woman Sues Local Monsignor

By Martha Bellisle
Reno Gazette-Journal
June 15, 2002

A Reno woman on Friday joined the list of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by Monsignor Robert Bowling, pastor at St. Therese the Little Flower Church for almost 30 years, according to her filing in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville, Ky.

The suit was filed by Christine Clark of Reno against the Archdiocese of Louisville. It alleges that Bowling acted in a sexually inappropriate manner when, as a 21-year-old newly married woman, she met with him several times concerning possible conversion to Catholicism.

Clark, a 40-year-old elementary school teacher in Reno, states that in about 1982 she met with Bowling to learn about converting to Catholicism. During those meetings at his Reno church, Bowling would "direct the conversation toward sex and sexual acts," the suit states.

"Bowling would ask (Clark) details about her sexual activity with her husband, including very intimate details concerning sexual positions, orgasms and pleasure," the suit says. The pastor would end each meeting with hugs, in which Bowling allegedly pressed his full body against Clark, the suit states.

When Clark tried to steer the conversation away from sex, Bowling "would throw his arms around and tell me I'm foolish," Clark said in a telephone interview. Bowling said "that everything is relevant and he's in charge," she said in the interview.

Clark said she stopped meeting with Bowling after he allegedly kissed her on the lips. She left abruptly, she said, and never went back.

John Arrascada, Bowling's attorney in Reno, said the pastor denies the accusations. He said Bowling would not be available for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the church, said Bowling was in Reno, but unavailable.

The Clark lawsuit charges that Bowling sexually abused women, some under the age of 18, while he worked in Kentucky and that the Archdiocese of Louisville placed Bowling in a position of power in the Catholic church, despite allegedly knowing of Bowling's behavior.

If the church had disciplined Bowling, Clark "would not have been at risk of being battered and emotionally abused," the suit states.

Clark said in the interview she hopes her lawsuit and other lawsuits involving Bowling will prompt him to change.

"I'd like to see him acknowledge his behavior, admit to his faults, get help and get better so this doesn't happen to somebody else," she said.

Another lawsuit filed Friday against the Archdiocese of Louisville by Patricia Ann Wheeler of Kentucky alleges Bowling sexually abused her when she was 8 or 9 years old. The lawsuit claims Bowling sexually abused the now 54-year-old Wheeler while he was a priest and administrator at St. Rita Church and School in Louisville. It states that in 1956 or 1957, Bowling fondled Wheeler while giving her a ride home.

The two lawsuits filed on Friday bring to five the number of civil lawsuits filed in Jefferson Circuit Court alleging sexual abuse or misconduct by the 74-year-old Bowling.

The suits claim the archdiocese knew about the alleged abuse by Bowling, but failed to stop it.

Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville, declined comment on the two latest lawsuits. "We don't comment on litigation," she said in a telephone conversation. "And we have not seen the lawsuits."

Brother Matthew Cunningham, spokesman for the Diocese of Reno, said in a telephone conversation, "we're in the process of going through our own policies," concerning the handling of allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct.

'I'd like to see him acknowledge his behavior, admit to his faults, get help and get better so this doesn't happen to somebody else.'


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