Saturday, August 14, 2004

Archbishop said he was aware of complaints in '82

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - In a deposition unsealed Friday, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly said he was aware of complaints about a priest as early as 1982, but any sexual misconduct wasn't "abundantly clear" until years later.

Kelly said his suspicions of the Rev. Daniel Clark "began to grow a little bit" in the years between his first hearing of problems with Clark and when the priest was prosecuted in 1988 for sexually abusing two boys.

The archbishop's sworn testimony was taken in April as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.

The suit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Kyle Burden, who accuses Clark of fondling him in 1982. Burden was 12 at the time.

The deposition was ordered unsealed by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wine at the request of the Courier-Journal of Louisville.

Burden's suit is one of the few sexual abuse suits remaining against the archdiocese. The archdiocese reached a $25.7 million settlement with 243 others who alleged sexual abuse by priests or others in the church.

Under questioning from Burden's lawyer, Kelly said he was given no indication when he took over as archbishop in February 1982 that the archdiocese was plagued by any sexually abusive priests.

That same year, however, he received his first complaints about Clark and calls for the priest to be moved from St. Rita school, he said.

The complaints didn't directly allege sexual misconduct, Kelly said. Instead, Clark was described as being "too close" to some boys, he said.

"I assumed that it meant an overdependence on some boys or young men emotionally, and I want to emphasize that," Kelly testified.

Kelly ordered that Clark undergo psychiatric help.

About that time, Kelly testified, "it became a little clearer" that Clark's problems were "more than just emotional dependence, but sexual abuse was not a term in our vocabulary."

Kelly said his suspicions of Clark grew in ensuing years, but Clark's sexual misconduct only "became totally, abundantly clear" when the archbishop read about Clark's criminal case in the local newspaper.

Clark pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing two other boys in 1981 and 1982.

Kelly said his suspicions before the conviction prompted him to assign Clark to duties away from direct contact with children. Clark was transferred several times to make sure he was supervised adequately, Kelly said.

"It became clear that while the behavior ... was not characterized as sexual at the time or sexual abuse, it did become clear that there was some kind of abhorrent behavior here and that we wanted to make sure that he was well supervised," Kelly testified.

Kelly said he could not recall when he first was told of any sexually abusive priest within the archdiocese. Kelly said it was not before his decision to send Clark to counseling. But the archbishop said he couldn't recall whether it was before Clark was criminally charged in 1988.

Kelly later said he would have acted on a charge of sexual abuse against a priest, "but I don't remember when it was given, that's all."

The archbishop added that the cases arose sporadically, and in almost all instances, the victims or their parents didn't want publicity.

Later, church officials "began to understand more about the civil law and what really needed to be done with these cases," Kelly said.

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