Convicted Priest Set to Appear Before Parole Board, SNAP Hopes He Will Remain Behind Bars

A priest in Kentucky who was convicted of child sexual abuse in 2016 has a parole hearing at 2:00 PM on December 16, 2019 in Frankfort.  The hearing is open to the public. We hope that he will be kept behind bars and away from other vulnerable children.

Fr. Joseph Hemmerle was convicted in 2016 for sexually abusing a child at a Meade County summer camp in the 1970s. The cleric subsequently appealed his case to the Kentucky supreme court, arguing that the prosecution had not proven intent. During the trial, Fr. Hemmerle admitted to touching the genitals of not only the victim in this case, but also other children over the 40 years he served as director of Camp Tall Trees.  He claims that he was only applying medicine, even though the victim in the case testified that he did not have poison ivy on his genitals.  Also, Fr. Hemmerle seems to discount that a 10 year old boy can apply the medicine himself and even their own mother would not touch them in that way at that age.  Fortunately, that nonsensical argument was shot down by the justices and Fr. Hemmerle remained in jail.

Now, after serving less than three years of a recommended nine-year sentence from two convictions, the parole board will be reviewing his case on Monday.  However, not only has Fr. Hemmerle never expressed any remorse for his actions, but he also argued in this appeal that the court never proved intent. We believe these two facts should disqualify him from parole.

Making matters worse, Fr. Hemmerle will not have to register as a sex-offender due to a loophole in Kentucky laws. Recent investigations have shown the danger that can come when abusive clergymen are allowed into communities unmonitored and unsupervised.

Children are protected and abuse is prevented when abusers are punished for their crimes and when they remain behind bars. We hope that Fr. Hemmerle, who remains a priest and has not been defrocked, will not be granted parole and will be obliged to serve his full sentence. If he unfortunately is paroled, we call on Catholic officials in Kentucky to pull out all the stops and use every resource at their disposal to warn parents, parishioners, and communities about the priest. This is the least that Church leaders can do to better protect children from those who do not “intend” to abuse children, yet do so anyway.

CONTACT: Michael Norris, SNAP Houston Leader and Survivor of Fr. Hemmerle ([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


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