KY--Victims applaud conviction of KY predator priest
For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016
Victims group applauds conviction of predator priest
For 30 years, cleric headed a camp for children in Kentucky
SNAP: “We suspect there are other witnesses, whistleblowers & victims”
Staying “trapped in silence” helps no one, victims say, & “endangers kids,” group stresses
Others who “saw, suspected or suffered abuse” should “come forward” with info, victims plead
A Louisville priest who was accused of molesting two children and spent 30 years running a camp for kids has been found guilty in his first trial. He still awaits a second trial by a second alleged victim after the judge ruled to split the cases, even though both men say they were abused at the same camp. A support group for victims is praising those who helped prosecute the priest and begging others who “may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes or church cover ups” to come forward.
“We’ve talked with two of Fr. Joseph Hemmerle’s victims,” said David Clohessy, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “One of them, Michael Norris, we know well. He is an extraordinarily kind, credible, courageous and compassionate man. And we are grateful that he overcame fear, confusion, shame and self-blame, stood up for himself and others, warned tens of thousands parents about a dangerous cleric and has made it harder for Fr. Hemmerle to hurt other children. We are very, very proud of Michael.”
Fr. Hemmerle was suspended twice – in 2002 and again in 2014 - by Louisville archdiocesan officials because of credible abuse reports.
“At least two brave victims came forward reporting Fr. Hemmerle’s crimes. They deserve our gratitude. Their courage has made kids safer,” said Clohessy. “But we firmly believe that there are others with information or suspicions about Fr. Hemmerle. Those individuals should summon the strength to step up and call police or prosecutors right away.”
“There’s been little attention given to the fact that Fr. Hemmerle faces at least two criminal accusers,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director. “Long ago, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz should have been making pulpit announcements and posting notices in church bulletins and on parish websites begging others with knowledge about Fr. Hemmerle to call law enforcement.”
In September 2001, Fr. Hemmerle was accused of child sexual abuse, according to church officials.
In January 2002, he was put on leave because of an accusation of child sexual abuse.
"The archdiocese kept quiet for months and didn't removed Fr. Hemmerle until the accuser went to the police," Clohessy said, citing an independent archive and research organization called BishopAccountability.org.
In June 2002, the archdiocese reinstated him, claiming that the police had "cleared" him even though the police were still investigating him.
In May 2014, Fr. Hemmerle was put on leave again when a second man reported that he was sexually abused as a young boy in the 1970s.
In Sept. 2014, Fr. Hemmerele was indicted on three counts of sexual abuse and six counts of sodomy involving a child. He has now been charged with nine counts of sexual crimes against children.
Fr. Hemmerele worked at four Louisville institutions: two parishes (St. John's and St. Raphael the Archangel), a school (Trinity High) and an orphanage (St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home). He also worked at Holy Cross parish in Loretto, St. Francis of Assisi parish in St. Francis, Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown and Camp Tall Trees at Otto Creek Park in Meade County.
He was ordained for the Louisville archdiocese in 1967. A photo of him, and his full work history and other information, is available at BishopAccountability.org
“These alleged internal church investigations often exonerate priests who are later civilly sued or criminally charged with child sex crimes,” said Clohessy. “Some of them go on to hurt kids after they’ve been supposedly ‘cleared’ by a committee of Catholics and their clerical colleagues. It’s very upsetting and irresponsible.”
“Ironically, if there's one prelate in the US who should get this right, it's Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,” said Dorris. “For several years now, he's been the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. His archdiocese has faced more than 250 abuse and cover up lawsuits and has at least 63 proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics. But Kurtz and his staff put back on the job a priest who's now been arrested and has had 12 or 13 more years to assault kids.”
“We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sexual abuse, by Fr. Hemmerle or any other official will find the courage to come forward, report to police, help others and start healing,” Dorris emphasized. “As this case clearly shows, when victims come forward they give courage to others who have been suffering in silence and self-blame.”
NOTE – Fr. Hemmerle worked at five locations in Louisville. Three were parishes - St. John’s, St. Bartholomew, St. Raphael the Archangel parish – and two were not: St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home and Trinity High School. He worked at three churches in smaller towns: Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Holy Cross in Loretto and St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis. From 1971-2001, Fr. Hemmerle worked at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County.