3 Clerics Said They Were Sexually Abused

By Gil Gideon
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
August 5, 2002

Three of the 26 Archdiocese of Louisville clerics accused in lawsuits of molesting children say in court records that they were themselves sexually abused as children.

Research shows that child molesters are more likely than other people to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, and one study found the pattern was true for Roman Catholic clerics as well.

But most sexual-abuse victims do not become sex offenders as adults, mental-health experts say.

The Rev. Louis E. Miller, who has been indicted on sexual-abuse charges in Jefferson and Oldham counties, told a psychiatrist that when he was 4 or 5, he would go to a grocery store and two employees "would enter into some kind of sexual play with him in the 'back room,' " according to a 1990 evaluation by Dr. Richard Brush of Cincinnati.

In the report, filed by prosecutors last month in Jefferson Circuit Court, the psychiatrist wrote, "Undoubtedly, the early seduction at the grocery store," combined with an inhibited home environment that discouraged any discussion of sexuality, "made significant negative contributions to his adult adjustment."

Miller, 71, has been charged in Jefferson County with 42 counts of sexually abusing 15 children between 1959 and 1982. In Oldham County, he is charged with 14 counts of indecent or immoral practices involving eight children between 1972 and 1975. Miller, who retired in March, has pleaded innocent to all charges.

He also has been named in 66 lawsuits against the archdiocese since April. The plaintiffs claim that church officials knew of but failed to disclose Miller's abuse of children.

In 1988, the Rev. Daniel Clark, a priest, and James Griffith, a deacon, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of boys. Before they entered pleas, police secretly taped conversations they had with their victims. In those conversations, both said they had been molested as children.

"Well, see, I was abused as a child," Clark told a victim, according to a transcript of a conversation recorded by the Louisville-Jefferson County Crimes Against Children Unit.

Clark pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and second-degree sodomy of two students at St. Rita School in 1981 and 1982. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 15 years of probation.

Clark has now been accused of molesting 14 children in lawsuits against the archdiocese.

"When I was a kid, the same thing happened," Griffith told his victim, according to a transcript of a conversation taped in November 1987. Griffith pleaded guilty to indecent or immoral practices and first-degree sexual abuse for molesting a student at St. Raphael Catholic School between 1974 and 1977. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years' probation.

Griffith has been accused of molesting one other child in a suit against the archdiocese.

Research on child molesters has found great variation in the percentage who reported having been sexually abused as children. Results have ranged from 8 percent to 60 percent. Few studies have looked specifically at clerics.

In a 1996 study, however, researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago compared the frequency of childhood sexual abuse among child molesters who were Roman Catholic clerics and nonclerics. Five of the 24 priests and brothers had been sexually abused as children, compared with 22 of the 45 noncleric molesters. In both groups, the molesters were more than five times as likely as nonmolesters to have been sexually abused as a child.

Childhood sexual abuse "doesn't condemn you to be an abuser, but it is a risk factor," said Charles Thomas, director of clinical services at The Family Place: A Child Abuse Treatment Agency in Louisville.

The majority of child molesters Thomas has treated were not sexually abused as children, he said, adding that a childhood history of physical abuse is more strongly correlated with becoming a molester as an adult.


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