A retired Roman Catholic priest pleaded innocent Thursday to felony sexual misconduct involving 15 alleged victims and a 42-count indictment.
The Rev. Louis E. Miller could face up to 10 years in prison for each of 36 counts of indecent and immoral practice and up to five years for each count of sexual abuse.
Calls to his lawyer, David Lambertus, were not immediately returned Thursday. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Louisville said he would not comment.
Miller’s alleged victims said they took some comfort after hearing the indictment had been issued Wednesday.
“I’m glad it’s happening,” Tim Baker said. “It’s going to get the ball rolling on trying to clean up this mess.”
Baker is among 59 people who claim in pending lawsuits that they were abused as children by Miller during the past 40 years.
“This was my first priority,” said Bernard Queenan, another victim. “It took a lot of guts for us to admit that this abuse happened.”
Miller, who worked at seven different parishes since 1956, is accused of abuse in 59 of the 146 lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville. Thirteen of the suits were filed Wednesday afternoon, just after Miller was indicted. The plaintiffs allege the church was aware of Miller’s conduct but did not take appropriate disciplinary action.
Miller retired in March and has been banned from public ministry and stripped of his white collar. He has been living in a retirement home for priests in Louisville.
He entered the pleas at his arraignment in Jefferson County District Court and posted $100,000 bond. A pretrial hearing was set for July 29.
“This is like all other cases. We’re not prosecuting a priest. We’re prosecuting a pedophile who happens to be a priest,” Commonwealth’s Attorney David Stengel said Wednesday.
More lawsuits have been filed against Roman Catholic dioceses in Kentucky than in any other state. Most involve the Louisville Archdiocese — which includes 220,000 parishioners in 24 counties.
Three of the lawsuits against it allege sexual abuse by former Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams when he was a priest in Louisville. Williams, 65, has denied the allegations.
Williams resigned this month, becoming the third U.S. bishop brought down by the sex scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church.
A central figure in the sex abuse scandal, the Rev. Paul Shanley, was charged last week in Massachusetts with abusing four boys during the 1980s. He has pleaded innocent.
The judge handling allegations of sex abuse against Boston-area priests scolded the plaintiffs’ lawyers Wednesday for media briefings and statements she said could taint potential jurors.
Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney said she was “deeply troubled” by what she has seen in the media in the case of Shanley.