KY--Victims plead with new bishop: Warn your flock!
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 6
Today is Lexington Bishop John Stowe’s first day in his new job. What could be more pressing than the safety of kids?
We call on him to immediately warn his flock about two local predator priests and to permanently post all child molesting clerics’ names on his diocesan website.
1---Fr. Carroll Howlin faces at least four child sex abuse allegations, but now lives – and likely still ministers – among poverty-stricken families in McCreary County with no supervision. It’s one of most reckless, disturbing and recent examples of how little church officials are doing to safeguard kids from known predators.
Recently-released church records show that prosecutors found the child sex allegations “credible” and “there was sufficient evidence to file criminal charges” but the statute of limitations prevented it.
Based on some of these records, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Church officials removed Howlin from public ministry, but otherwise left him alone in Kentucky (despite charges that) Howlin had used money to gain sexual favors from two impoverished teenage boys and had been engaging in ‘informal ministry on the side’ in Kentucky” (with a charity called "Hills and Hollers Ministries," 606 376 7577).
In 2010, the Vatican banned him from unsupervised contact with children, but “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,” the Tribune found.
“Howlin is in fact still a Joliet Diocese priest who is supposed to answer to its bishop, according to both the Vatican and other experts. The diocese continues Howlin's pension, and (his bishop) has the authority to dictate where Howlin lives. (But) records show church officials have done little to keep tabs on him,” the Tribune reported.
The Joliet diocese website says he has “a continuing canonical process,” proof that he’s still a priest.
From 1977-2002, Howlin was pastor of Good Shepherd Chapel (513 489 8815, 513 489 0200, 606 376 8728) in Whitley City, about two hours south of Lexington (but still in the Lexington diocese). He is listed as a “credibly accused” predator priest on the Joliet Diocese website:
Howlin’s not young. Some say he’s ill. But there’s no magic age at which a child predator is magically cured. Many predators claim to be sick, infirmed, or senile or exaggerate ailments they may have to garner sympathy and seem harmless. Remember: it takes very little time or strength for an adult to shove his hands in a child's pants.
So we urge Lexington’s bishop to chart a new course. We urge him to act courageous and compassaionately, by warning eastern Kentucky citizens and Catholics about Fr. Howlin.
2---In 2009, Fr. Joseph N. Muench was accused of having sexually abused five children in the 1980s. He pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment and attempted sexual abuse involving two of them. In May 2010, he was sentenced to a year in jail, but was released just four months later.
Fr. Muench is the most prolific living Lexington area predator priest, SNAP says. He most recently worked at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary parish in Lexington (2006-2009). He also worked at churches in Covington, Frankfort, Prestonsburg, Martin, Harrodsburg, Perryville and Frankfort.
We do not know where Fr. Muench is now. (A few months ago, however, a Lexington priest told us he was still in the area.) But we think Catholic officials should defrock him, publicize his whereabouts and aggressively seek out others who might be able to bring more criminal charges against him.
It’s irresponsible for Catholic officials to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer and shield priests, but suddenly act powerless about them once their crimes become public.
3---About 30 bishops, usually under pressure, have posted names of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm
For the safety of children and the healing of victims, we want Bishop Stowe to take this simple, inexpensive step toward openness and prevention.
According to BishopAccountability.org, an independent, Boston-based archive group, there are seven publicly accused Lexington diocese predator priests: Fr. William J. Fedders, Fr. Stephen Gallenstein, Fr. John B. Modica, Edward Francis Murray, Fr. Leonard B. Nienaber, Fr. William G. Poole, and Fr. Carl C. Schaffer. Lexington Bishop Kendrick Williams also resigned after being accused of molesting three boys in Louisville. (All three reached settlements.)
We suspect there are at least a dozen clerics more whose crimes and identities remain hidden.
NOTE - Photos of Fr. Howlin and Fr. Muench are available at BishopAccountability.org
The attorney whose case brought records about Fr. Howlin into the public eye is Terry Johnson of Chicago (312 922 4022, firstname.lastname@example.org). The attorney who represented victims of Fr. Muench is B. Keith Saksefski of Louisville (502 267 8222).
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)