Victim Begins to Heal after Church Lawsuit Settlement

Fox News [Louisville KY]
June 14, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The sexual abuse scandal that swept the Archdiocese of Louisville weighed heavily on the victims. For some, it meant facing their abusers who were still in the ministry. Others had to tell their families for the first time.

But to victims and the church alike, the $25.7 million settlement announced this past week means they can begin to heal.

"They can't sweep it under the table anymore," said Mike Turner, whose personal revelation last year sparked the public scandal for the Catholic Church in Louisville that resulted in the settlement. "They're not dealing with 243 kids anymore. They're dealing with 243 adults, their spouses and their kids."

The archbishop has said that he hopes to speak with victims and offer help now that the litigation is over.

The archdiocese has until July 10 to put the settlement amount into a court-controlled escrow account. A judge will determine how much goes to each plaintiff.

It began last year, when Turner, who was thinking of adopting a child, broke down during a mandatory parental education class about "inappropriate touch."

For the first time, he told his wife he had been sexually abused by his childhood priest.

On April 19, 2002, Turner became the first of 243 victims to sue the Archdiocese of Louisville claiming they were abused as children. The victims -- now adults -- said the church was aware of the abuse but moved accused priests to different parishes. That allowed at least one priest to abuse dozens of children.

Once Turner's suit made headlines in The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, other victims began calling his home -- three to four of them daily for several weeks.

"It was shocking to hear of the other victims," said Turner, 45, who owns a construction company. "A guy from Florida called me and said he was abused too. I was reliving it everyday after filing my suit."

The priest who abused Turner, the Rev. Louis E. Miller, recently pleaded guilty to multiple counts of molesting children in two counties and is serving a 20-year prison term.

"It was real hard for me when he pleaded guilty, to hear him say in a courtroom that he remembered me," Turner said.

A bishop from the Diocese of Lexington resigned after being accused in three lawsuits; a retired priest was sentenced to 20 years in prison; and two other priests, a former priest and two teachers await trials after pleading innocent.

Some members of the Catholic community called for the resignation of Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, but the church rejected that during the settlement negotiations.

"It has all just been too overwhelming. Picketing the church was not easy, and it was hard asking Archbishop Kelly to step down. If you're Catholic, you just don't do that," Turner said.

Turner now attends an Episcopal church with his wife and 20-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

Victims and their families say they will continue to fight for changes within the church.

"We still want to see the people step down that allowed this to happen," said Turner's wife, Babs. She is involved with Linkup, a Louisville-based national group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The Turners said they are trying to adopt children, something they put on hold while he sought counseling and pursued the lawsuit against the church. Turner said that through the ordeal he found a support system.


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