Marchers Protest at Cathedral
Catholic Critics Want Bishops Accountable for Priests' Actions

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
February 24, 2003

About 40 people attending a national conference in Louisville on sexual abuse by clergy demonstrated yesterday morning in front of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption, chanting slogans calling for bishops to be held accountable for their handling of sexually abusive priests.

Holding poster-sized pictures of children victimized by priests, protesters also called for the resignation of Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly, saying they think he has mishandled abuse cases.

''There needs to be something done here so that these bishops and the church are held accountable,'' said Mary Miller of Louisville, one of 213 people suing the Archdiocese of Louisville over alleged sexual abuse by priests and others associated with the church. Her lawsuit is one of 85 accusing her uncle, the Rev. Louis E. Miller.

''We want them to admit what happened, to be accountable for what happened, and we want Kelly to resign,'' Mary Miller said.

The peaceful protest took place around 11 a.m., when few people were at the cathedral because it was between Masses. Protesters marched from the Holiday Inn Downtown on Broadway, where The Linkup advocacy group was concluding a three-day conference, to the cathedral on Fifth Street, where they demonstrated for about 20 minutes.

They shouted slogans such as ''Tell the truth,'' ''Stop corrupt bishops'' and ''Kelly's got to go'' before marching back to the hotel along the largely empty streets.

''It's so empowering for survivors to be able to speak out about what happened to them,'' said Linkup President Susan Archibald of Louisville. ''It didn't matter much that there was no one there to hear. To tell the truth and speak out for accountability is very important.''

For those inside, the cathedral's walls largely muffled the the protesters' chants.

Don Wooldridge, coordinator of youth ministries at the cathedral, said he respected the group's freedom to protest.

''People have rights,'' he said. ''People are hurt. They've got to tell people they're hurt. I think they made their point without hurting anybody.''

Jessica Meyer, a member of a choir at the cathedral, agreed but said she wished the protest wasn't held on a Sunday morning while people were coming to worship. ''I don't think it's the proper time or place,'' she said.

Archibald said she ''tried to time it between Masses so there wouldn't be much conflict.

''It wasn't centered around the fact that there were people at Mass (but because) the cathedral is the symbol of this diocese.''

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price and the cathedral's pastor, the Rev. William Fichteman, declined to comment on the protest.

Most of the protesters were from other states or Canada. John Scott was one of a handful of participants from Louisville.

''It's going to take awhile, but I would like to open the eyes of people who are scared to come out,'' he said. He carried a sign calling for the state Senate to pass a bill that would repeal statutes of limitations for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.

The bill is considered dead for this session, but ''I'm not going to give up,'' said Scott, who is suing the archdiocese for alleged sexual abuse by the Rev. Edwin Scherzer.

Last year Kelly permanently removed eight priests from ministry, including Scherzer, who is named in three lawsuits, and Miller.

Kelly's action followed last year's decision by the nation's Catholic bishops to bar any priest from ministry for even a single incident of sexual abuse. Louisville and other dioceses have also set up boards to review future cases.

But Rick Springer of Chicago, a member of Linkup's board, contended that such changes are ''all window dressing.''

He said bishops should ''own up to the cover-ups, open their records, tell the truth (and) in many cases, step down.''

''We want them to admit what happened, to be accountable for what happened, and we want (Archbishop Thomas) Kelly to resign.''
-Mary Miller of Louisville

Kelly told reporters earlier this month that he does not intend to leave office until he reaches the standard retirement age of 75 in three years.

He said he did not think it would ''benefit this archdiocese to have somebody else come in now to deal with this.''

''It seems to be very much my responsibility, my thing to care for.''

Kelly has said he is willing to meet with any victim of abuse, though he said legal rules prevent him from meeting with plaintiffs until their lawsuits are resolved.

Mary Miller's lawsuit against the archdiocese, in addition to accusing Louis Miller of abuse, claims that Kelly committed perjury when he testified in her 1999 lawsuit against Miller himself. Kelly testified that he didn't remember any prior lawsuits alleging abuse by Miller, although one had been settled in 1990.

Mary Miller's current lawsuit alleges this was false, but Kelly maintains that he had genuinely forgotten the case.


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