A national church abuse survivors group called for the resignation of the Louisville archbishop after church documents revealed that he was aware of a sexual abuse case but continued to allow the priest to minister.
Susan Archibald, president of the national organization The Linkup, based in Louisville, and a dozen other victims and church members launched a petition Wednesday asking for Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly to resign.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Archibald, urging Kelly to resign from a position he has held since 1982. “This is the best thing he can do to heal this church.”
On Tuesday, two memos signed or initialed by Kelly in 1983 were released to the public. The memos show that Kelly knew of a case of child sexual abuse involving the Rev. Thomas C. Creagh and a then-15-year-old Gregory Hall, of Louisville.
Creagh has been accused in lawsuits against the church of sexually molesting several boys, including Hall. The archdiocese has said it reached a settlement to pay Hall’s family $20,000 in 1983. Kelly also permanently barred Creagh from ministry in July 2002.
“This is a very serious problem they overlooked,” said Hall, whose father was standing by his side. “I hope they know they’ve done wrong, and I hope they step down so we can start new.”
The memos were among church documents that were subpoenaed by attorney William McMurry of Louisville, who represents nearly all of the more than 200 plaintiffs suing the archdiocese. The plaintiffs claim they were sexually abused by clergy and that the church knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
“The public has a right to them,” McMurry said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We know that Father Creagh is not the only sexual predator that Archbishop Kelly failed to turn over to the police. Kelly never turned Louis Miller over to the police, in spite of Miller admitting to Kelly that he had abused scores of children.”
The Rev. Louis E. Miller pleaded guilty last week to 50 counts of sexual misconduct in Jefferson County. He is the one of four priests or former priests facing criminal charges in Kentucky.
Kelly would not comment Wednesday but did release a statement.
“The Church has been part of the problem of childhood sexual abuse in our society. We have made many mistakes. We must face these, and most importantly ensure that they do not happen again,” Kelly wrote.
In his statement, Kelly reiterated what he said nearly a year ago when lawsuits began to be filed. Kelly said the archdiocese has never denied that on some occasions it kept priests in ministry after they sexually abused children. Depending on the situation, such priests were sometimes barred permanently, sometimes placed on restricted ministry and sometimes returned to full parish ministry, he said.
Kelly did not report Hall’s abuse to the police in 1983, but Hall’s attorney told the family they could press criminal charges.
Hall said Wednesday his family declined to press charges because of the toll it would have taken on him.
“This last year has been brutal. There is no way I could have handled this 20 years ago,” Hall said.
All Kentucky citizens have been required by law since 1964 to report suspicions of child abuse. Failing to do so could result in a misdemeanor charge, which has a one-year statute of limitations, according to Jeff Derouen, a spokesman for the Jefferson County commonwealth’s attorney. Derouen said because of the statute, Kelly or the church could not now be criminally charged for the 1983 incident.
Regardless of criminal charges, Archibald and others believe the only way to heal the church is for Kelly to resign. Archibald will present the signatures to Kelly in 30 days.
“I ask all Catholics to sign this petition so we can bring spirituality back into the church,” said Bonnie Miles, of Louisville, who referred to herself as a concerned Catholic.
Meanwhile, eight more lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs claim allege were abused by six priests and one teacher all of whom have been named in previous suits.
The first suit in Louisville claiming the church had covered up abuse was filed April 19, 2002. The statute of limitations allows for further alleged victims to file suit within a year from that date. Any suits after April 19 of this year would be looked at case by case, McMurry said.
The alleged victims would have to explain why they waited so long to file after the cases became public, McMurry said.