People Relieved by Settlement, Look to Put Issue behind Them

By Gregory A. Hall
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
Downloaded June 11, 2003

As news of the $25.7million settlement of 240 sexual-abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Louisville spread quickly last night through the local Catholic community, one theme dominated: closure.

"I hope now some healing can begin," said Tina Doll, a member of Church of the Ascension in St. Regis Park. "It will still be a painful journey."

"It's hard to put a price tag on something like that. I don't know how they did it," said Mark Kleiner, who was watching his daughter play field hockey at Ascension. "I'm just glad it's over with. Hopefully, everyone can move on."

Leslie Jenks, who was standing next to Kleiner, disagreed. "The sad thing is, it's not over," Jenks said, referring to other cases that weren't included in the class-action settlement

Original Highlands resident Bill Lincoln said the settlement was smaller than he had expected.

"I was looking to see something larger, maybe $100million," said Lincoln, who is both organist and director of music at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Phoenix Hill.

He also said that the settlement - regardless of its size - is about more than money.

"The settlement forces people to acknowledge that something happened," Lincoln said. "People who were affected may feel, no matter how small the settlement, very satisfied about that."

Diane Fahy said she thinks the settlement, if used to help the victims pay for needed counseling, is a good thing. Fahy, an Audubon Park resident, has attended St. Martin of Tours on South Shelby Street for the past eight years.

"I think it can be helpful in the healing process," she said.

The Rev. William Medley, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Bardstown, said in a phone interview that he didn't know details of the settlement last night but was glad to hear most lawsuits have been settled.

"I certainly feel relieved that it's over with and hope this does mark a turning point for the victims, that they can move to heal their lives and be reconciled with the church," he said.

Medley said he worries about the financial burden the settlement will place on the archdiocese.

"If we're talking millions of dollars, that's going to impact services," he said.

Sister Joye Gros, president of the congregation of Dominicans at St. Catharine, Ky., said members of her order have taken the suffering of the victims to heart and will be relieved by the settlement.

"It breaks our heart," she said. "Everybody's in pain, and we have compassion for people in pain."

The church's challenge, she said, will be to try to restore trust and credibility.

"The ordinary folk are disillusioned," Gros said. "I do think we have a hill to climb."

At St. Agnes, Glenn Kosse, head of the parish council, agreed that the church needs to "learn from what happened and make the appropriate changes," including giving more power to the laity.

"I'm glad that it's finally behind us," he said, "that the victims and the families and the parishes and the whole Catholic community can start moving forward and working together to develop our faith and not always tear it down."

Kosse declined to comment about his feelings about Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.

St. Boniface's Lincoln said he hopes the scandal doesn't do permanent damage to Kelly's legacy.

"Archbishop Kelly has done so much for the archdiocese, and it's near his retirement," he said. "I would hate to see this be the only thing he's remembered for."

St. Barnabas parishioner and school parent Kevin Altenstadter said he supports Kelly, who Altenstadter said was at his church over the weekend.

"I'm not one of those who feels that he needs to go, and I don't see any reason why he needs to leave," Altenstadter said. "I think he's a very strong leader."

Altenstadter also said he's looking for closure.

"I would hope in the future if this was to happen again, we would have a lesson learned, and our behavior would be a little bit different next time," he said.

He cited, for example, the Rev. Louis E. Miller's testimony last month that he was placed in parish ministry after telling archbishops that he had abused children.

"I feel awful for the people involved, and I truly want reconciliation," said Mike Cronan, a member at Holy Spirit church, where Miller admitted to sexually abusing a number of children.

But Cronan said he is frustrated that money has to be the means of that reconciliation.

"I think it is ridiculous to call for the resignation of the archbishop, and it concerns me that money that was contributed for charitable purposes is taken away, Cronan said.

At St. Patrick Catholic Church in eastern Jefferson County, member Ken Rudolph, 37, of Middletown, said he thinks it's unfortunate that the sexual-abuse allegations have overshadowed the good work of the church. A volunteer for Catholic Charities, he was making a presentation to the parish stewardship committee last night.

"I feel it's real important for people to know what good the Catholic community does," he said. "I wish the archdiocese was more vocal about the positive things we do."

St. Patrick parishioner Bill Janes, 62, of Middletown, said he believes the settlement talks were handled correctly, although he is not "real comfortable" with the whole controversy.

"I'm glad to get it out of the way," he said. "I'd like for the church to move on."

Staff writers Matt Batcheldor, Sheryl Edelen, Jason Riley and Deborah Yetter contributed to this story.


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