In a deposition unsealed yesterday, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said he was aware of complaints about a priest as early as 1982, but any sexual misconduct wasn’t “abundantly clear” until years later.
Kelly said his suspicions of the Rev. Daniel Clark “began to grow a little bit” in the years between his first hearing of problems with Clark and when the priest was prosecuted in 1988 for sexually abusing two boys.
The archbishop’s sworn testimony was taken last April as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.
The suit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Kyle Burden, who accuses Clark of fondling him in 1982. Burden was 12 at the time.
The deposition was ordered unsealed by Circuit Judge Thomas Wine at the request of The Courier-Journal.
Burden’s suit is one of the few such suits left against the archdiocese, which reached a $25.7 million settlement with 243 others in similar cases.
Kelly said he had no indication when he took over as archbishop in February 1982 that the archdiocese was plagued by any sexually abusive priests.
That same year, however, he received his first complaints about Clark and calls for the priest to be moved from St. Rita school, he said.
The complaints didn’t directly allege sexual misconduct, Kelly said. Instead, Clark was described as being “too close” to some boys, he said. “I assumed that it meant an overdependence on some boys or young men emotionally, and I want to emphasize that,” Kelly testified.
Kelly ordered that Clark receive psychiatric treatment.
About that time, Kelly testified, “it became a little clearer” that Clark’s problems were “more than just emotional dependence, but sexual abuse was not a term in our vocabulary.”
Kelly said his suspicions grew, but Clark’s sexual misconduct only “became totally, abundantly clear” when the archbishop read about Clark’s criminal case in the local newspaper.
Clark pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing two other boys in 1981 and 1982.
Kelly said his suspicions before the conviction prompted him to assign Clark to duties away from direct contact with children. Clark was transferred several times to make sure he was supervised adequately, Kelly said.
“It became clear that, while the behavior was not characterized as sexual at the time or sexual abuse, it did become clear that there was some kind of abhorrent behavior here and that we wanted to make sure that he was well supervised,” Kelly testified.
Clark is now serving a 10-year prison sentence he received in 2003 in Bullitt County Circuit Court on other abuse charges.