The Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., agreed to pay $25.7 million to 243 people who accused priests, including the retired pastor of St. Therese the Little Flower Church in Reno, of sexual abuse.
The settlement includes 11 lawsuits by women who claim Monsignor Robert Bowling molested or behaved sexually inappropriately with them while children or adults.
Altogether, the settlement is one of the largest payments by the Roman Catholic Church over clergy sexual abuse allegations in the country.
No child should ever have had to experience what happened to you, Archbishop Thomas Kelly said in a statement to victims when the settlement was announced in Kentucky on Tuesday.
I promise that we are doing everything we can to prevent child abuse in the church, he added. I apologize for what we did or what we failed to do that led to your abuse.
Bowling’s lawyer, John Arrascada,said he spoke with the 75-year-old priest Wednesday about the settlement. He described Bowling as extremely ill with several different ailments.
Monsignor is pleased for the archdiocese that they were able to settle all the claims, including the 11 which contained allegations against him, and that the church now can continue on its spiritual mission, he said.
He respects the settlement reached it gives closure to the claimants.
Arrascada said he did not discuss with Bowling the apology made by the archbishop to the victims. Because he was unsure of the conditions of the settlement, he said, he could not comment on the allegations made against Bowling allegations the priest has previously denied.
He hopes to live the rest of his days, however many they may be, in peace, Arrascada said.
They include Christine Clark, a 40-year-old elementary school teacher in Reno who filed one of the suits against Bowling.
Court-appointed commissioners will apportion the funds to victims based on various factors, including age at the time of abuse, he said.
Brother Matthew Cunningham, spokesman for the Diocese of Reno, said they had not been contacted about the settlement and declined comment.
We’re not in a position to make a statement, he said Wednesday.
Bowling was a priest and administrator at St. Rita Church and school and at the Holy Cross Church and school, both in Kentucky, from 1955 to 1965. He moved to Reno in 1969 and became pastor of St. Therese in 1974.
Most of the claims allege that abuse occurred while Bowling was working in Kentucky. The lawsuits are filed against the archdiocese, and not Bowling personally. They charge that the archdiocese should have stopped Bowling’s activities.
In Clark’s case, she said officials never should have relocated him to Reno.
Almost half the women claim Bowling sexually abused them 40 years ago while they were students at Holy Cross grade school. Some said the molestation occurred in a confessional.
Another woman claimed in her lawsuit that Bowling fondled her when she was 8 or 9 during a drive to her Louisville home. One woman said he fondled her in a nurse’s office.
The most recent lawsuit making claims about Bowling was filed in January by Therese Brennan-Pettipas. It states that Bowling molested her at a Reno hospital when she was six months pregnant.
Of the 11 lawsuits involving Bowling, Brennan-Pettipas and Clark are the only people who charge that the priest acted against them while they were adults. The rest claim Bowling molested them when they were children.
The hundreds of lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville name 34 priests and other church workers.
Only people who filed lawsuits between April 2002 and April 23, 2003, were eligible for the class-action settlement, which was reached after five days of negotiations, mediated by a former federal judge.
Under the agreement, the money will be paid into an escrow account in 30 days. Under an agreement made in advance with their clients, McMurry and his fellow lawyers will receive 40 percent of the payment, he said.