Monday, June 03, 2002

Lexington bishop accused of abuse

Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A 51-year-old New Haven man is accusing the Roman Catholic bishop of Lexington of sexual abuse.

        Bishop J. Kendrick Williams was named in a lawsuit filed Friday against the Archdiocese of Louisville. This is the second suit that Bishop Williams has been accused of sexual abuse.

        The suit was one of seven filed Friday against the Louisville archdiocese, which is now named as a defendant in more than 100 lawsuits filed in recent weeks. The 104 suits in Jefferson Circuit Court accuse the Louisville archdiocese of covering up complaints of sexual misconduct among more than a dozen of its priests and failing to stop the abuse.

        The suits allege childhood sexual abuse against one bishop, nine living priests, three deceased priests, two former priests, one teacher and one ordained deacon.

        In one of Friday's suits, David Hall alleges he was sexually abused while Bishop Williams was a priest serving at St. Catherine's High School in New Haven in 1969, according to the lawsuit.

        Bishop Williams is already on administrative leave while diocese officials investigate an accusation made against him in a separate lawsuit filed last week.

        Hall's suit says while he was a senior at St. Catherine's, Williams sexually abused him during confession.

        “I didn't tell anybody, not even my parents,” Hall, 51, of New Haven, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “I was embarrassed and still am. Even to this day I can't believe I was foolish enough to let this happen.”

        In a lawsuit filed in Louisville last week, James W. Bennett, 33, of Louisville, claimed Williams molested him in 1981 while he was a priest in Louisville.

        In a statement following that accusation, Williams denied the allegations.

        “Let me state this simply: the allegations are false,” Williams said last week. “I do not remember the young man,” he said, referring to Bennett.

        Hall said while a student at the high school from 1966-70, he was a member of the basketball team that Williams oversaw.

        “I felt so bad for Mr. Bennett when he (Williams) said he didn't remember him,” Hall said. “He can't deny that he doesn't remember me. I want him out of the Catholic church.”

        Officials with the Lexington diocese declined to comment Friday. The Archdiocese of Louisville has refused to comment on the scores of suits against it.

        Meanwhile, Jefferson Circuit Judge James M. Shake said at a hearing Friday all the lawsuits would likely be consolidated to determine whether the suits should be sealed, as the Louisville diocese has argued. The diocese cites a 1998 state law calling for allegations of childhood sexual abuse more than five years old to be sealed. Lawyers for the plaintiffs and The Courier-Journal newspaper have claimed the law is unconstitutional.

        Most of the recent accusations are more than 30 years old.

        Shake said the court will have to make a ruling early next week on the constitutionality of the state law before any other steps are taken regarding the suits.

        The six other lawsuits filed Friday in Louisville allege sexual abuse by priests who have been named in other pending suits. Those include the Rev. Robert A. Bowling, the Rev. Robert Dollinger, the Rev. James Hargadon and the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who has been named in nearly half the suits pending against the Louisville archdiocese.


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- Lexington bishop accused of abuse
Kentucky A.M. Report