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Archdiocese Official Didn't Check Abuse Claim

Oct 4, 2002 | The Courier-Journal

The former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Louisville acknowledges that he did nothing to investigate a parent's complaint that a priest had abused his son and that he didn't report another priest who told him that he had molested some boys.

The Rev. John W. Hanrahan, who served as chancellor from 1966 to 1982, said in a sworn deposition that when a parent alleged to him that a priest had acted inappropriately with his son, Hanrahan told him, ''I think you ought to approach that priest and talk to him about it.''

Hanrahan said he didn't record the complaint against the Rev. Edwin J. Scherzer and didn't investigate it or discuss it with the archbishop or other chancery officials to see if other accusations had been made against Scherzer.

''Didn't you feel a sense of responsibility to the children, to protect the children of the church from what might be a potentially abusive priest?'' Hanrahan was asked by attorney William McMurry, who represents most of the 185 plaintiffs who have sued the archdiocese, charging that it covered up sexual abuse by priests and other employees.

''No, I didn't at the time,'' said Hanrahan, who later was pastor of Our Lady Of Sorrows and is now retired.

As chancellor, Hanrahan served as custodian of records for the archdiocese. He also was trained for two years in canon law and would have prosecuted any priests who were formally accused of misconduct by the archdiocese. But Hanrahan said no cases were tried during his tenure.

Hanrahan said in the deposition that he never asked Scherzer about the allegation.

Scherzer, who served at St. Edward from 1956 to 1960 and at St. Therese from 1960 to 1969 and is now retired, is named by plaintiffs in two of the lawsuits against the archdiocese. He has declined to comment on those allegations.

In the deposition, which was taken Sept. 16 but not transcribed until last week, Hanrahan also said he believes the archdiocese had no obligation to notify parishioners about priests with a record of abuse.

''Are you suggesting that parishioners don't need the information that the priest at their church is an admitted pedophile in order to adequately protect their children?'' McMurry asked.

''I think they can adequately protect them without knowing it,'' Hanrahan said, adding that parents should instruct their children to be cautious around all adults.

In an interview yesterday McMurry said, ''This is an astounding statement, but clearly it was the attitude that the church had through all three of the last archbishops.''

Cecelia Price, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Hanrahan said in the deposition that he knew about three priests other than Scherzer who were accused of misconduct over the 23 years that he worked in the chancery.

Hanrahan said a psychiatrist told him years ago that he was treating two priests -- who were not named -- and that the Rev. Daniel C. Clark told him, after a meeting with the archbishop in 1981 or 1982, that he had molested boys at St. Rita parish.

Hanrahan said he didn't know if the archbishop at the time was the Rev. Thomas J. McDonough, who retired in 1981, or the Rev. Thomas C. Kelly, who succeeded him the next year and is still in the post.

Hanrahan said Clark said he didn't recall the incidents but believed they occurred because ''they were good boys'' and wouldn't have made it up.

Hanrahan said he didn't discuss the conversation with the archbishop because he assumed Clark had told him.

''Did you make sure some corrective action was taken so you could sleep well at night knowing the children of the church were being protected?'' McMurry asked.

''I just thought the archbishop had a handle on it,'' Hanrahan said.

According to other depositions, Kelly ordered Clark to undergo outpatient therapy while he remained at St. Rita, but neither teachers nor parents of children at St. Rita School were told about the allegations.

Kelly transferred Clark to another parish in 1982, the first of five posts he held over the next six years. He allegedly abused children at three other parishes until he was convicted of sodomy and sexual abuse in 1988 and removed from public ministry.

Hanrahan said he didn't report Clark's admission to civil authorities because he didn't know about a law on the books in Kentucky since 1963 that requires anyone with reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused to report it to a local law-enforcement agency or the Kentucky State Police. Hanrahan said he thought the law was enacted in 1983.

Hanrahan said he didn't know when he got the telephone call about Scherzer or the name of the parent who called him, or if he gave his name. He said he didn't investigate the complaint because he never heard back from the parent.

''I took it for granted that this problem had been taken care of to his satisfaction,'' Hanrahan said.


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