11 More Suits Claiming Abuse Filed against Archdiocese

By Gregory A. Hall
August 23, 2002

Eleven more lawsuits were filed yesterday against the Archdiocese of Louisville, alleging that priests and a volunteer football coach at Catholic grade schools sexually abused children.

The suit naming the coach, Louis Holzknecht, is the first civil action to accuse him of abuse, although he faces criminal charges in other child-abuse cases. All the other lawsuits filed in Jefferson Circuit Court yesterday involve allegations against priests who are mentioned in earlier litigation.

None of the alleged abusers are named as defendants in the lawsuits filed yesterday, which bring the number of cases filed against the archdiocese since April to 183.

The criminal charges against Holzknecht involve allegations of abuse by two victims - one in an incident between 1988 and 1992 and the other in January 2002. Holzknecht has pleaded innocent and is being held in the Jefferson County jail.

The civil case filed yesterday by Patrick T. Hughes dates back to about 1966, when it says Holzknecht was a coach at Most Blessed Sacrament School, where Hughes was a student and athlete. The lawsuit says that Holzknecht sexually abused Hughes, now 45, when he was in the third and fourth grades.

In an interview yesterday, Hughes said the abuse occurred on three or four occasions at Iroquois Park, where Holzknecht took him when he was the last person in a carpool to be dropped off.

Hughes also said he told a priest in confession that he had been abused by Holzknecht and gave the priest names of other students in the carpool, whom he suspected also were abused. His father later contacted someone at the rectory, and was told the situation would be handled, Hughes said.

When Holzknecht was gone the next football season, Hughes said he and his family assumed the coach had been turned in to police. He didn't know that Holzknecht had coached again until the criminal charges were filed this year, Hughes said.

The lawsuit refers to Holzknecht as an employee of the archdiocese.

Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said that Holzknecht was never an employee, so the archdiocese cannot confirm where and when Holzknecht was coaching.

Hughes' attorney, William McMurry, said whether Holzknecht was an employee or a volunteer isn't significant because the church had a duty to protect children.

All of the suits filed yesterday say that the archdiocese knew or should have known of an alleged pattern of abuse by its priests or other employees.

The archdiocese has denied that allegation in previously filed lawsuits.

Price declined to comment yesterday on the latest lawsuits' allegations.

In the other suits filed yesterday:

-- Three allege abuse by the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who is named in approximately 70 other suits and is also facing abuse charges in Oldham and Jefferson counties. An attempt to reach Miller yesterday was unsuccessful. He has pleaded innocent in the criminal cases.

Rick Renfro, 40, who is named as a victim in the Oldham County criminal case, filed suit, saying Miller molested him when he was a student at St. Aloysius School in Pewee Valley.

M. Craig Schadt, 32, says in a suit that in the early 1980s Miller abused him while working at St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

Mark Franklin Bowman, 49, says that Miller abused him "in a confessional setting" in 1964 at SS. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, where the boy had been admitted for surgery. Miller was the hospital's chaplain.

-- Two lawsuits name the Rev. Robert A. Bowling, who is now on leave in the Reno, Nev., diocese.

Margaret "Peggy" Langness Wheat, 56, says in her suit that around 1955 or 1956, Bowling sexually abused her on multiple occasions at St. Rita Church. The lawsuit said that her family told church officials in 1956 or 1957 of the abuse and that Bowling was then moved to St. Joseph Preparatory School in Bardstown.

Price said the archdiocese has no reports of abuse naming Bowling.

Deborah Quire Volz, 54, says in her suit that Bowling sexually abused her in about 1956 when she was a student and fell on the playground and was taken to a room to be seen by a nurse. When the nurse left, the complaint says, Bowling entered and fondled her.

Bowling has denied allegations made in previous lawsuits.

-- Timothy Christopher Tharp, 32, says in his suit that the Rev. Daniel Clark sexually abused him around 1984 when he was a parishioner at St. John Vianney Church, where Clark was assigned.

Clark was convicted of sexual abuse and sodomy in 1988 and received a sentence of 15 years with 90 days in jail and the rest of the sentence probated.

He is currently charged in a criminal child sexual abuse case in Bullitt County and is being held in the Bullitt County Jail.

Jailer Danny Fackler said Clark is refusing interview requests.

-- Janice Winter Marks, 43, says in her suit that the Rev. John Elder sexually abused her in a women's restroom in 1973 when he was assigned to St. Barnabas Church. Elder died in 1993.

-- Michael A. Clark says in his suit that the late Rev. Arthur L. Wood abused him around 1964 when he was 11 and attending St. Elizabeth of Hungary School.

-- George Esterle's lawsuit claims that a Conventual Franciscan priest, the Rev. Daniel Emerine, abused Esterle, now 54, around 1962 at St. Paul Church.

That lawsuit names the Franciscan order, the Province of Our Lady of Consolation Inc., as a defendant in addition to the archdiocese.

A spokesman for the Conventual Franciscans declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Ten of the 11 plaintiffs who filed yesterday are represented by McMurry.

-- The final lawsuit, filed by Belinda Diana Curl, 51, says that she was abused in approximately 1963 when she was a resident at "St. Thomas Home-St. Vincent Home-Our Lady's Home for the Infants." Curl is represented by attorney Victor E. Tackett Jr.

Curl's suit names the Rev. H.J. Lammers as the priest who allegedly abused her.

Lammers, who is dead, was assigned to the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage in Anchorage at the time mentioned in the lawsuit, Price said. Our Lady's Home for Infants was never located in Anchorage, according to Price.







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