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Suit Alleges '90 Abuse By Priest

Separate action is filed against Xaverian order

May 14, 2003 | The Courier-Journal

A Louisville woman has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Louisville, alleging she was molested by the Rev. Louis E. Miller at a Christmas party in 1990, after the Archdiocese of Louisville allegedly knew of Miller's past abuse and took steps to restrict his ministry.

Charlene Moyers, 28, is the youngest person to sue the Archdiocese of Louisville over alleged sexual abuse by Miller, and the lawsuit represents the first time someone has accused Miller of molesting as recently as 1990.

A second lawsuit was filed yesterday against a religious order of brothers who operate St. Xavier High School, alleging abuse by a brother at that school in the 1960s. The archdiocese is not named in that lawsuit.

In her lawsuit, Moyers said that when she was 15 she attended a Christmas party held by the Knights of Columbus' Bishop Spalding Council and was introduced to "Father Miller," she said.

She said Miller allegedly kissed and fondled her on two occasions during the party.

Moyers said she had "blocked out" the memory of the abuse for several years but became aware of it over the past year as she began to hear about other allegations against Miller. Her memory didn't become clear until February, she said.

"That's when I told my mom and uncle" of the alleged incident, she said.

Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, who took charge of the Louisville Archdiocese in 1982, has said that he became aware of Miller's abusive past in December 1989 and that he barred him from parish ministry.

By May 1990, Miller was beginning what would become years of therapy, and he was appointed part-time chaplain at a retirement home.

Moyers faults Kelly for not reporting Miller to police and letting him remain as a priest in good standing.

Miller pleaded guilty to 50 counts of sex-abuse-related charges in Jefferson Circuit Court on March 31 and is scheduled for sentencing later this month.

Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said she could not comment on pending litigation, citing church policy.

But she said the church does not operate the Knights of Columbus or assign priests to it. The lawsuit alleges the archdiocese was negligent in "hiring" Miller at the Knights of Columbus.

Miller later became a chaplain at the Knights' Bishop Spalding Council.

Darlene Moyers, Charlene's mother, said she had feared her daughter might have been molested since learning last year of allegations of sexual abuse by Miller.

Like other lawsuits, the case alleges that the archdiocese covered up sexual abuse and argues that the normal one-year statute of limitations on such lawsuits should be waived.

But the lawsuit comes nearly a month after the first anniversary of the first lawsuit alleging a cover-up, a date that some legal observers say may mark the cut-off date for such lawsuits.

William McMurry, the attorney representing Moyers and more than 200 other plaintiffs against the archdiocese, said yesterday that he believes that Moyers' lawsuit can proceed because she was not aware until later last year of the allegations that the archdiocese has covered up abuse.

The archdiocese denies the allegations of a cover-up.

Currently, plaintiffs and the archdiocese are discussing the possibility of settling the lawsuits through mediation.

In another case filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, Donna Wiest Goatley is suing the Xaverian Brothers USA, saying she was abused by a brother in the early 1960s.

Goatley is also represented by McMurry.

Goatley, 54, said that her family lived near St. Xavier and that she encountered a teacher from the school, "Brother Ernin," at a park across the street from the school. She alleged the brother hugged and sexually molested her.

The suit accuses the Xaverians of negligence, saying they knew or should have known of the abuse and did not stop it.

A written statement by the Xaverian Brothers identified the teacher as Brother Ernan Bradunas, who died in 1985.

"The Xaverian Brothers have no record of any such incident, nor any other allegations against the late Brother Ernan," said the statement from Brother Arthur Caliman of Baltimore, general superior of the order. "We will, however, cooperate with whatever court proceedings ensue."

Bradunas was on the St. Xavier faculty from 1951 to 1961, according to a statement from the high school's director of development and alumni relations, Mike Littell.

Caliman said that the Xaverians adopted "a stringent policy" on sexual abuse a year ago and that "we do not tolerate misconduct."

"The Xaverian Brothers earnestly and readily apologize to any victims who may have experienced any form of abuse by any Xaverian Brother in the past, and we believe that our current policies and practices are designed to prevent that from happening today," he said.


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