Church Still Paying Sex-Abuse Expenses

By Peter Smith
October 21, 2004

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville spent more than half a million dollars on expenses directly related to sexual abuse in the fiscal year that ended in June, according to a newly released audit.

The $524,797 paid between July 2003 and June 2004 pales in comparison to the more than $27 million the archdiocese paid in legal settlements and other costs in the previous fiscal year. But it indicates the lingering toll that the scandal is taking on the archdiocese.

"There's no question that spending $500,000 for the sexual-abuse crisis is a significant outlay of funds," said Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese. "It has a real financial impact on our operations."

Overall, though, Reynolds said the archdiocese's finances are improving from last year, when it drastically cut its budget and staff and shifted costs to parishes.

The archdiocese has postponed a scheduled increase in assessments on parishes, and it has resumed paying for certain employee insurance benefits after a year of requiring parishes to cover them.

"Our fundamental principle is strong parishes make a strong archdiocese," he said. "We were very concerned that another assessment increase was going to hurt parishes to a greater degree than it was going to help us."

That decision was "welcome news," said the Rev. Bill Medley, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Bardstown, who said it would help the church overcome a small deficit from last year.

The archdiocese received $7.5 million in assessments from parishes, more than $1 million more than in the previous fiscal year, according to the audit .

The audit did not measure giving to parishes, which Reynolds said is mixed depending on parish, though overall parish income is up because of school tuition increases and growth in revenue from other sources.

But one measure of giving - the annual Catholic Services Appeal - raised $2.7 million, falling short of its $3 million goal. Reynolds said he was still pleased with that amount, citing the tight economy and the archdiocese's efforts to regain trust after the abuse crisis.

Medley said donations have increased modestly at his parish and at others he is familiar with.

"For the most part in 2003 and 2004, people have looked beyond whatever hurt and betrayal they felt about that (abuse crisis) and resumed their normal spirit of giving," said Medley, a member of a panel of priests that assists Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly with administration.

Michael Turner, the first person to file a lawsuit against the archdiocese in 2002 and a member of The Linkup, a Louisville-based victims advocacy group, said he recognizes that the archdiocese faces continued costs from the crisis. But he said the archdiocese should contribute to programs that help those who have been abused.

"I feel they could do more for victims," Turner said. "There's so many of them."

Abuse costs stop rehiring

In spite of the archdiocese's financial rebound, Reynolds said the continued cost of the abuse crisis has prevented it from being able to fill the nearly 50 positions it cut last year. The archdiocese's central agencies handle programs such as administration, charities, education and communications.

The archdiocese paid $25.7 million in the previous fiscal year - July 2002 to June 2003 - to settle lawsuits filed by 243 victims of sexual abuse by priests and others associated with the church. The archdiocese settled subsequent lawsuits individually.

The lawsuits maintained that the archdiocese had placed priests in ministry whom it knew had sexually abused children and that the archdiocese had not warned parishioners.

Costs for the July 2003-June 2004 fiscal year include:

$24,008 for counseling fees for victims.

$93,000 for direct settlements with victims, including some people whose lawsuits were dismissed by Jefferson Circuit Court judges because they were filed too late.

$194,275 for legal fees, which included handling the legal settlements and dealing with remaining litigation.

$45,858 for communications with parishioners.

$36,398 for education on the prevention and detection of sexual abuse.

$5,937 in miscellaneous expenses that include the preparation of reports sent to the Vatican about accused priests.

$125,321 for the pay, housing and medical insurance of 10 accused priests who were temporarily or permanently removed from ministry. Nine priests have been permanently removed, and a 10th was returned to ministry during the last fiscal year after the archdiocese concluded it could not confirm allegations against him.

Accused still receive pay

Church law requires the removal of abusive priests from ministry, but only the Vatican can decide whether to remove their status as priests.

Until that decision is made, church law requires the archdiocese to provide the m with a salary, housing and medical expenses.

Reynolds said that three former priests who are now serving prison sentences receive almost no compensation other than a small allowance, while the others who were removed from ministry had their salaries cut by half.

The Vatican approved a request in August to remove one of the nine, Joseph Stoltz, from the priesthood, Reynolds said. Stoltz no longer receives any compensation from the archdiocese, Reynolds said.

Stoltz had privately acknowledged to Kelly several years ago that he had sexually abused a boy in the 1970s, and he and the archdiocese had agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement to the victim in 1992. The settlement remained confidential until it was revealed in court documents two years ago.

Stoltz underwent extensive therapy and remained in ministry until 2002.

In a letter at that time to parishioners at St. William Church, where he had been working, Stoltz admitted he had made "terrible mistakes" as a young priest and had been forced to "confront my actions, make a sincere apology, seek forgiveness and make amends. "

Stoltz could not be reached for comment this week.


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