Priest Named in Latest Sex Abuse Lawsuit Died in '90

By John Tuohy
Indianapolis Star
February 7, 2004

Officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis said a priest accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing an altar boy more than 40 years ago died 14 years ago.

The lawsuit against the Rev. William Blackwell is the fourth pending legal action against the Indianapolis Archdiocese in which a dead priest is accused.

Three of those, including the Blackwell case, have been filed by Bloomington lawyer Eric Allan Koch.

"The fact that they are deceased is unfortunate, but these suits clearly lay out our legal theory," he said.

A 57-year-old man identified only as Robert M. filed the lawsuit Thursday, alleging abuse by Blackwell. Robert M. contends the abuse occurred from 1957 to 1961 at St. Mary's School in Richmond and at Blackwell's parents home in Marion County. Robert M. was a student in two of Blackwell's classes and an altar boy.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Borchets said Blackwell died Feb. 2, 1990. When The Indianapolis Star published a story about the lawsuit Friday, neither the archdiocese nor Koch was available to confirm if Blackwell was alive.

"Most of the lawsuits against us involve dead priests," Borchets said. There are six lawsuits pending against the church in Marion County. In the two lawsuits in which the priests are still alive, one of the accused has resigned. In the other, the defendant is seriously ill.

Lawyer Larry Landis of the Indiana Public Defenders Council said that to succeed in court Koch would have to present evidence the molesting occurred and the archdiocese knew about it.

"Maybe they have evidence of a complaint being filed about it, and his employer ignored it," Landis said.

The two other deceased priests sued in Koch's lawsuits are the Rev. William O'Brien, who followed Blackwell at St. Mary's, and the Rev. Samuel Curry, in Spencer.

Two brothers brought the abuse lawsuits against O'Brien. Two sisters are suing Curry.

Borchets would not comment on whether Blackwell was one of 20 priests whom the archdiocese found in an internal investigation to have abused minors since 1950.

Borchets said the archdiocese extends sympathy to anyone abused by priests.

"We want to offer passionate care and outreach to any victims," she said.



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