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Archdiocese Quietly Settled Suits Going Back 20 Years, Files Show

Oct 13, 2002 | The Courier-Journal Since Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly was installed in 1982, the Archdiocese of Louisville has reached confidential settlements with at least 13 people who claimed they were abused by a half-dozen priests, according to records released late last week.

Four of the claims were paid to settle lawsuits filed from 1990 to 2000.

In a profile of Kelly published in The Courier-Journal in February before the recent flood of litigation against the church he said the archdiocese had largely avoided the priest-abuse scandal that had rocked the church elsewhere.

''We have had some problems locally, but with one or two exceptions, we've never had any kind of public lawsuits because we have, I think, dealt fairly and honestly with the situations as they arise,'' Kelly said in a story marking his 20th anniversary as archbishop. ''I think our priests have been almost universally above reproach anyway.''

William McMurry, the lead counsel for most of the 185 plaintiffs who have pending sex-abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese, said the settlement records released last week show Kelly ''tried to deceive his parishioners and the public at a time he knew this was an enormous problem.''

Counting another lawsuit that was dismissed, the records show that five suits alleging sexual abuse were filed against the archdiocese or its priests before this year.

Brian Reynolds, the archdiocese's chancellor and chief administrative officer, responded to McMurry's comments on Kelly's behalf, saying the archbishop may have understated the number of suits in his comments earlier this year because he doesn't think of suits settled before trial as ''public lawsuits.''

''I don't think he minimized the problem,'' Reynolds said. ''None of us in February, including Archbishop Kelly, had any idea we would be facing 185 lawsuits six months later.''

McMurry provided The CourierJournal with copies of the settlement records, which were subpoenaed by the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuits against the archdiocese and surrendered to their lawyers on Thursday.

THE SETTLEMENTS all note that the payments are not an admission of guilt on the part of the priests or the archdiocese. They all stipulate that the recipients not reveal that their claim was settled or the terms.

McMurry said the claims paid in past years give credibility to the allegations of the current plaintiffs. He also said the 13 claims may reflect only a small portion of those settled by the archdiocese over the past five decades because they represent only those that officials could find in the chancery.

Citing attorney-client privilege, Reynolds, who was questioned in a two-day deposition that ended on Friday, declined to say whether he had asked the church's longtime law firm, Ford Klapheke & Meyer, for copies of settlements it may have.

The plaintiffs' lawyers plan to ask Jefferson Circuit Court Judge James Shake tomorrow to order the archdiocese to produce any such documents.

Reynolds said that the archdiocese's practice is to retain all of its settlement records and that it found no record of any claims paid before 1982. ''Mr. McMurry is just frustrated because he expected there would be more,'' Reynolds said.

In most of the documents released last week the names of the purported victims and the amount they were paid were removed by the archdiocese.

But the records shed light on allegations that previously surfaced, as well as on some cases that had not.

The records show, for example, that the church paid a claim to settle allegations against one priest the Rev. Thomas R. Clark who is still active and hasn't been named in any lawsuit.

REYNOLDS SAID that Clark, who until recently was pastor at St. Timothy Catholic Church as well as Our Lady Help of Christians and St. Patrick in West Point -- was investigated and cleared by the LouisvilleJefferson County police's Crimes Against Children Unit.

Based on that and a psychological assessment of Clark done for the archdiocese, ''We concluded that there was no way to substantiate that any child sex abuse had taken place,'' Reynolds said.

He said the church offered the alleged victim a financial settlement because of the ''difficulties he was facing in his life'' and because Clark had cared for him for years after a juvenile court judge placed him in Clark's custody.

Reynolds said that Clark is on a routine sabbatical studying Spanish in Texas and that when he returns he will serve as pastor of two parishes in Casey County.

Reynolds said he couldn't reach Clark yesterday and declined to release his phone number without his consent; supervisors in the Crimes Against Children Unit did not return phone calls.

The Rev. Joseph Scollard, who succeeded Clark at St. Timothy, said he knew nothing about the allegation. The records don't identify Clark's accuser.

OTHER RECORDS released last week show that:

The archdiocese paid undisclosed amounts to settle claims made by two sisters of Robert W. Hack, who allege in a lawsuit filed in May that he was abused by the Rev. Louis Miller at St. Athanasius Church, where Miller served from 1961 to 1963. The sisters' claims were against Miller.

A written settlement between the archdiocese and Gregory C. Hall and his parents did not include a promise that Kelly would remove the Rev. Thomas Creagh from St. Albert the Great, where he was pastor and allegedly abused Hall. Hall, 35, who sued the archdiocese in May, alleged in that complaint that Kelly had reneged on a deal to oust Creagh and move him away from children.

The settlement, struck in 1983, called for Creagh and the archdiocese each to pay $10,000 to Hall's parents, Jerry and Patsy, to be held in trust for Gregory. A release signed by him and his parents says ''no parties to this agreement are relying on any verbal terms not contained therein.''

But in a separate deposition taken on Monday, Jerry Hall said Kelly promised he would remove Creagh from a ''school environment.'' Hall testified that Kelly told him he couldn't do that immediately because he didn't have anyone to take Creagh's place, but Hall said he thought it would be done ''within six months.'' Instead, Creagh remained at St. Albert for three years.

THE SENIOR Hall also alleged that Creagh admitted to him that he had sexually abused his son.

Jerry Hall also said Kelly told him that Creagh had confessed, but that the archbishop's ''initial comment to me was that the easiest way to remedy the situation was for me to leave the parish. I refused to do that.''

The elder Hall testified that he felt he couldn't object to anyone about Creagh remaining at St. Albert because the settlement required the family to ''never discuss the alleged tort with anyone.'' Two of Hall's younger children followed Greg to St. Albert while Creagh was still there.

''I felt like the archbishop had betrayed myself and Gregory and . . . the other kids,'' Jerry Hall testified. ''I don't feel he had done what he said he would do, but I felt like my hands were tied.''

Creagh resigned from Holy Family Catholic Church in May and was placed on leave after Gregory Hall filed the first of four lawsuits against the archdiocese accusing him of sexual abuse. He has since been permanently removed from public ministry.

A suit against Miller filed by his niece, Mary C. Miller, was settled in June 2000 for $60,000. The archdiocese also agreed to pay $82,661 to her lawyer in installments.

Mary C. Miller agreed to keep the payments and allegations secret, and the archdiocese agreed to lend the Rev. Miller part of the money because the charges, ''whether true or false, if related to the general public and members of the church, will have an adverse affect on the perception of the church and its priests.''

MARY MILLER filed another suit against the archdiocese in July, alleging that it had concealed earlier allegations against her uncle. Louis Miller, 71, has been accused of sexual abuse in 70 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, and faces felony charges in Oldham and Jefferson counties. He retired after church officials received a complaint against him in March.

The archdiocese paid undisclosed sums to settle lawsuits filed by both of the victims named in a 1988 indictment of the Rev. Daniel C. Clark, who pleaded guilty to sodomy and sexual abuse.

Clark, who was permanently removed from ministry, is named in 17 pending lawsuits and has been indicted in Bullitt County for allegedly abusing two boys between 1998 and May of this year. He has pleaded innocent.

The archdiocese paid another claim to settle a lawsuit filed in 1990 by Mark Delmenhorst and his thenwife against Miller and other defendants. In the suit, they alleged Delmenhorst was abused by Miller at St. Elizabeth in 1977.

The two most recently settled claims were signed on July 2 and Aug. 7 this year. They stemmed from allegations against Miller when he was pastor at St. Elizabeth of Hungary, from 1975 to 1990. No other information is disclosed in the settlement documents.

The archdiocese paid another claim in May 1997 to cover past medical costs and 10 future counseling sessions for a man who claimed he was victimized by the Rev. Dan Clark at St. John Vianney parish. The accuser is not identified.

It paid a claim of $10,500 to Robert Mattingly in 1995 to cover counseling for three years at the old Our Lady of Peace hospital. Mattingly had accused the Rev. Arthur L. Wood of molesting him at the St. Polycarp Church rectory and at other locations.

MATTINGLY AGREED not to sue the archdiocese for any claim, but McMurry said the release was invalid because the church had failed to disclose previous sexual abuse by Wood, who died in 1983 at age 59. Wood is accused of sexual abuse in 33 other lawsuits pending against the archdiocese.

At least $60,000 apparently was paid in 1992 to an unnamed person who complained that he had been abused by the Rev. Joseph Stoltz, then-pastor at St. Bernard Church. The amount of the payment isn't disclosed, but another document released last week shows that an insurance company paid the archdiocese $60,000 to settle a dispute over whether the church had coverage for the claim naming Stoltz.

Stoltz, who is accused of sex abuse in one pending suit, was removed as sacramental moderator at St. William parish in June after the nation's bishops adopted a tougher policy on sex abuse. The archdiocese disclosed then that Stoltz had been put on restricted ministry after he was accused of sexual misconduct in 1990.

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