For immediate release: Friday, Jan. 242014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
The Vatican has made another depressing appointment by promoting Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer to head the Harrisburg diocese. In fact, this may be Pope Francis' most distressing promotion yet.
Gainer has done a very poor job protecting kids and healing victims in Lexington.
1) Just last year, we begged Gainer to oust – and warn his flock about - a four-time accused predator priest who works, basically unsupervised, in the Lexington diocese. He is Fr. Carroll Howlin, who lives unmonitored and "ministers" in eastern Kentucky in apparent violation of a Vatican order and the church’s national abuse policy.
Late year, the Chicago Tribune reported that Fr. Howlin, suspended for sexually abusing Illinois boys, still lives and works - unsupervised - in McCreary County. The cleric has reportedly also molested two Kentucky boys, one of whom committed suicide.
Fr. Howlin, according to the Chicago Tribune, allegedly used money to garner sexual favors from impoverished boys.
In 2002, Fr. Howlin, then 67, pastored Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City. He was reportedly put on administrative leave when abuse reports against him surfaced that year, according to Lexington diocesan officials.
(One man says he reported Fr. Howlin’s crimes to Catholic officials in 1993)
Despite his suspension, however, the Tribune reports that Fr. Howlin’s supervisors in both the Lexington and the Joliet Catholic diocese have basically ignored him. The Vatican has reportedly “sentenced” Fr. Howlin to a lifetime of "prayer and penance" and banned him from unsupervised contact with minors. But the Tribune found that “he serves as his own minder here in rural Kentucky. The choice of whether to follow the Vatican's restrictions involving ministry or being alone with children remains entirely up to him.”
2) Gainer put Fr. William G. Poole back into a parish even though Poole was twice charged with public indecency (1990 and 2001) and accused (in 2003) of molesting a boy. A Catholic lay panel in the Covington diocese found the child sex abuse allegation against Poole to be credible and paid a settlement to the victim. But Gainer recklessly put Poole back on the job.
3) Roughly 30 US bishops have posted the names of child molesting clerics on their diocesan websites. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm
Gainer refuses to do so.
According to BishopAccountability.org, there are eight proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests in the Lexington diocese. We see no evidence that Gainer has done anything beyond the absolute bare minimum in any of these cases. And in the cases of Fr. Howlin and Fr. Poole, Gainer is continuing to endanger children with stunning callousness.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)