Thursday, February 13, 2003

Priest's journal suggests church knew of abuse

Child molestation suspect wrote archbishop urged him not to resign

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A journal kept during 12 years of therapy reveals that a local priest, now criminally charged with dozens of counts of sexual misconduct, struggled with pedophilia for decades.

The journal is part of a 246-page treatment file of the Rev. Louis E. Miller obtained by the Courier-Journal. Miller's comments in the journal also indicate for the first time that archdiocese officials knew of abuse complaints and acted on them in secret.

That issue is central to more than 200 lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville alleging that it was aware of abuse by priests but covered it up.

Miller, 72, has been criminally charged with molesting 29 children in two counties and has been accused of abuse in 83 of the lawsuits filed against the archdiocese. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the criminal charges.

In his journal, produced under Louisville psychologist Dennis Wagner's supervision between 1990 and 2002, Miller chronicles a descent into pedophilia as a young priest and an ensuing 40-year struggle with the condition.

He acknowledges numerous acts of molestation between 1960 and the 1980s, including some that collaborate lawsuits against the archdiocese that accuse Miller of abuse.

"My offenses have crushed me; damaged my priesthood, my family, my friends, parishioners, fellow priests and children that were not offended but know of my offenses," he wrote in 1993, nearly 10 years before the public became aware of allegations against him.

He also alleges that, as early as 1961, he offered to leave the priesthood. But then-Archbishop John Floersh "said no and that `I would be a good priest,' "Miller wrote.

Provided by lawyer

Floersh died in 1968, and the Louisville archdiocese has said it has no records indicating knowledge of accusations against Miller - or archdiocesan intervention - before 1989.

Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, declined to comment on the contents of the file.

Miller, reached last week at his retirement home in Louisville, asked that the writings not be published.

"To print any part of my medical and psychological records is a violation of my human rights and confidentiality," he said.

The Courier-Journal obtained the document from attorney William McMurry, who represents most of the 209 plaintiffs currently suing the archdiocese over alleged sexual abuse by Miller and other church personnel.

McMurry contends that the document reinforces his clients' contention that church officials knew of Miller's acts and covered them up.

"Father Louis Miller is the person who has direct personal knowledge of what the archdiocese knew and when they knew it," McMurry said.

Years of anguish

In his writings, Miller pours out sexual frustrations, guilt and shame.

"Two minutes of pleasure has possibly caused boys over 20 years of mental pain and anguish," he wrote.

Miller also wrote of suffering sexual abuse himself as a child, of a stifling silence about sex in his family and during seminary training, and about his fixation on boys who he said represented his own lost adolescence.

Victims' advocates and lawyers who have represented plaintiffs and Catholic dioceses say the writings of an accused priest can offer insights into their actions.

But they also caution that Miller's words should be read with skepticism, because they were intended for his therapist and for his boss at the time, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.

In 1992 and 1998, Miller signed releases authorizing Wagner to release information on his treatment to Kelly. Reynolds said the archdiocese did receive reports from Wagner but not Miller's journals.

Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, a Louisville-based national advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, said it was "shocking" to hear of Miller's allegation that an archbishop rejected an offer to resign in 1961.

"It shows there was not only a sick man in Louisville for a very long time, but he knew he was a sick man, and I think, like many abusers, he hoped that somebody would stop him," she said.

"Think of all the victims who could have been spared that nightmare."

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