Abusive Priest Granted Early Release, SNAP Urges Vigilance
Fr. Raymond Joseph Hemmerle, a Catholic cleric twice convicted of child sexual abuse, will be set free on October 1st. While we understand and respect the American judicial system, we fear for the safety of children upon his release, especially given the distressing fact that he will not be forced to register as a sex offender.
In February of 2017, Fr. Hemmerle was sentenced to 7 years in Kentucky prison for child sexual abuse. Later that year, another 2 years was added to his sentence when he was convicted in a second case. The cleric was denied parole in 2019. Michael Norris, one of the clergyman's two known victims, was incredibly instrumental in seeing that Fr. Hemmerle was brought to justice. We are grateful for Michael, as his strength and courage has helped to educate tens of thousands of parents about a dangerous priest and has made it harder for Fr. Hemmerle to hurt other children.
However, we are still extremely concerned to learn that Fr. Hemmerle will soon be set free. The priest is being released into unsuspecting communities and more children will be put at risk because he will not be required to register as a sex offender. Especially concerning to us are the comments made by former Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly, who tried to downplay the risk presented by the cleric by saying “you don’t have to worry about Father Hemmerle, he’s much older now and his sex drive isn’t what it used to be.”
This is a laughable claim on its face and does not provide the ease of mind for which Archbishop Kelly was aiming. Research and experience teach us that age does not cure perpetrators. In some ways, age can even give abusers an advantage, as people may see an old man and assume that he is harmless. This is not necessarily true. One need look no further than the case of Fr. Hernan Toro, who was abusing children well into his late 80s.
The risk that was taken with Fr. Toro only led to more children being scarred by sexual abuse. The same risk absolutely should not be taken with Fr. Hemmerle. We know that the Church has many treatment facilities for current and former clergy with sexual issues. We hope that Catholic will insist that Fr. Hemmerle lives in such a facility, where he can receive treatment and where he will have no access to boys and girls.
“The world is a less safe place with Father Hemmerle having unfettered access to our children,” said Michael Norris. “Since he was not required to receive any treatment as a sex offender and he does not have to register as a sex offender, he is the same pedophile who walked into prison almost 5 years ago. I hope the Catholic Church finally does the responsible action and remove his access to all children. I don’t want to see another child have to live through the experience I have had to endure.”
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Michael Norris, Victim of Hemmerle and Former SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 713-855-9178), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)