Third Louisville Priest Indicted after Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

By Deborah Yetter
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
October 11, 2002

The Rev. James Hargadon was indicted on a single charge of sexual abuse yesterday, becoming the third Louisville Roman Catholic priest since June to face criminal action involving alleged abuse of children.

Hargadon, 74, a retired priest, was charged with sodomizing Todd D. Robertson, 39, in 1976, when Robertson was 14. The indictment provides no further detail.

The indictment follows that of the Rev. Louis E. Miller, charged in June and July with sexually abusing 23 children in Jefferson and Oldham counties, and the Aug. 7 indictment of the Rev. Daniel C. Clark, charged with repeatedly abusing two Bullitt County brothers, ages 11 and 12, over the past several years. Miller and Clark have both pleaded innocent.

Hargadon's lawyer, David Lambertus, declined to comment yesterday.

The Archdiocese of Louisville issued a brief statement saying it has been cooperating with criminal investigators and that Hargadon has been asked to refrain from all public ministry since he was first named as an alleged abuser in a lawsuit against the archdiocese in May.

Hargadon had retired earlier this year as senior associate pastor at St. Patrick parish, after surgery. Four men, including Robertson, have since sued the archdiocese, alleging Hargadon sexually abused them when they were boys.

The archdiocese said in its statement that it had never received any reports of sexual abuse involving Hargadon before the first lawsuit was filed May 15.

Hargadon is to be arraigned Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court.

THE JEFFERSON County grand jury also returned an indictment yesterday against Miller, charging him with another count of sexual abuse. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Carol Cobb, the prosecutor in the case, said yesterday that she couldn't say whether more charges may be brought against any priests.

Robertson, an auto-plant worker from Shelbyville, Ky., said yesterday that while the process has caused him to relive the alleged abuse, he's relieved that the charge has been brought.

"I think the justice system will do what it's supposed to do," he said.

Robertson and the three other men who have filed suit accusing Hargadon of abuse describe him as a priest who preyed on boys at St. Polycarp Church in the 1970s.

But other priests and former parishioners say they are shocked by the allegations. They say they knew Hargadon as a friendly yet seriousminded priest who ministered to the poor in Peru, encouraged lay people to take leadership roles and wove his fascination with history and travel into his sermons.

"I really can't say anything negative about Father Hargadon," said Martin Brown, a former parishioner of Hargadon's at St. Edward Church in Jeffersontown in the late 1980s and early 1990s, who said he became a deacon with Hargadon's encouragement. "He supported me when I needed support."

BROWN SAID his three sons were altar boys and students at St. Edward and never reported any questionable conduct. After the allegations came out, his now-adult sons told him, 'That's not the Hargadon we knew,' " Brown said.

Hargadon's "strong suit" as a pastor was encouraging parishioners to take leadership roles, Brown said. "He didn't try to control everything."

Jack Conrad, a deacon at St. Patrick Church in eastern Jefferson County, where Hargadon last worked part time, said he had no idea if the accusations were true. But Hargadon was "always a good guy to work with. I just enjoyed being around Jim."

At St. Patrick, Hargadon was a popular teacher of classes for adults converting to Catholicism, according to the Rev. Jack Schindler, pastor of St. Joseph Church and former pastor at St. Patrick.

"He had a great sense of humor and was well-liked," Schindler said.

Hargadon enlivened his sermons with tales from his avid reading of history and from his travels abroad, including a trip retracing the journeys of the Apostle Paul, Schindler said.

Hargadon's sermons sometimes received mixed reactions, said Janet Alvey, who worked as secretary at St. Francis Xavier parish in Mount Washington in the 1990s while Hargadon was there.

"He was so intelligent," she said. "He was a very well-read man. Sometimes people didn't understand him."

BUT BROWN recalled that Hargadon was "open to critique" about his sermons and encouraged Brown to develop his own style, using illustrations from family life that parishioners could relate to.

Alvey said Hargadon took precautions to lessen the chance of misunderstandings that could lead to allegations of misconduct.

For example, he would make sure someone was in the office when he had appointments with people.

She described Hargadon as "a very understanding person that I would invite to my house at any time." He helped officiate at her daughter's wedding and went fishing with her then-teen son at a house the priest had at the Hurricane Hills resort in Nelson County, always without incident, she said.

"My family established a close relationship with him and still maintains a close relationship with him," Alvey said.

The Rev. Robert Mills, a classmate at St. Meinrad and a retired priest, recalled Hargadon was one of the best students at the seminary, where he was already developing his interest in history.

"He was a fine young fellow, he mingled well, got along well with all his classmates," added the Rev. John Dalton, another former classmate and retired priest.

After several postings in the Louisville archdiocese, Hargadon worked as a missionary in Peru from 1964 to 1972. His work there was done under the auspices of the Boston-based Society of St. James the Apostle. The society assigns priests to do pastoral and social-service work in poor urban areas, such as Lima.

The Rev. Joseph Shields, director of the society, confirmed Hargadon worked with the group but declined to discuss the details of his assignments. He did say there are no allegations against Hargadon stemming from his mission work.

His missionary experiences made a deep impression on him, acquaintances said. Hargadon often helped needy people who showed up at the door of St. Francis Xavier, sending them to a nearby grocery store to buy food and baby formula at the parish's expense, Alvey said.

Upon his return to Louisville, Hargadon worked at several parishes, including serving as the pastor of St. Polycarp from 1974 to 1984.

ALL OF THE allegations in lawsuits against Hargadon relate to his tenure at the Pleasure Ridge Parkarea parish.

One plaintiff, John Kaelin, alleged he was abused by Hargadon on an outing to Rough River around age 13 and also alleged he witnessed Hargadon abuse another boy, Lawrence Thompson, who has also filed suit.

Another plaintiff, Jeffery Scott, alleged Hargadon abused him at the parish rectory, while Robertson alleged Hargadon molested him several times.

In addition to the Jefferson County investigation, Kentucky State Police have also investigated allegations that Hargadon abused boys in the Rough River area. They have talked with Louisville and Jefferson County police in the investigation, state police Lt. Deron Berthold said recently. Berthold could not be reached yesterday for comment on the status of the investigation.

Cobb said yesterday that she couldn't comment on investigations in other jurisdictions.

Archdiocesan officials have spoken with police investigating Hargadon and have "fully cooperated with the investigation," said Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

"The accusations against Father Hargadon were disturbing and surprising to all of us who knew him as a hard-working pastor," said Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese.

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April 13, 1928: Born in Louisville. Later baptized at St. Philip

Neri Church. Attended Holy Name and Holy Cross schools. Graduated from Flaget High School.

1955: Ordained; graduated from St. Meinrad (Ind.) Seminary

1955-58: Associate pastor, St. Augustine Church, Lebanon

1958-64: Associate pastor, St. Thomas More Church, Louisville

1964-72: Missionary, Lima, Peru

1972-74: Associate pastor, Our Mother of Sorrows, Louisville

1974-84: Pastor, St. Polycarp, Jefferson County

1984-93: Pastor, St. Edward, Jeffersontown

1993-98: Pastor, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Washington

1998: Retired from full-time service

1999: Sacramental moderator, Holy Rosary, Springfield

2000-02: Senior associate, St. Patrick, Jefferson County

2002: Retired completely; accused of abuse in four lawsuits

Oct. 10, 2002: Indicted on one count of child sexual abuse


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