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Records Show That Archdiocese Has Settled More Than Dozen Suits In Last 20 Years

Oct 13, 2002 | The Courier-Journal

The Archdiocese of Louisville has reached confidential settlements with at least 13 people who claimed they were sexually abused by a half-dozen priests since 1982, 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 Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly published in The Courier-Journal in February before the recent 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 attorney 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 Courier-Journal with copies of the settlement records, which were subpoenaed by the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuits against the archdiocese.

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.

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, was investigated and cleared by the Louisville-Jefferson County police's Crimes Against Children Unit.

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

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