Abuse appeal rejected, suit against priest can move forward


Alan Ferris

Abuse appeal rejected, suit against priest can move forward
From staff and wire reports
Saturday, April 12, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit that claims a former Catholic priest sexually
abused a boy and that an archdiocese covered up his prior history of
sexual abuse can move forward, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In a two-page order, the court declined to hear an appeal by lawyers
for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

That came in the first of a series of 13 lawsuits alleging sexual
abuse that are filed against the archdiocese and former priest Harry
Elwood Monroe.

In 1983 and 1984, Monroe co-pastored at three parishes in Perry
County, and six of the lawsuits allege he molested boys there during
that time. The remaining lawsuits allege sexual acts when Monroe
previously was assigned to parishes in Indianapolis or Terre Haute,
beginning in 1974. Monroe was removed as a priest in 1984, though
never officially defrocked.

In the lawsuit ruled upon this week, the plaintiff alleged the
archdiocese committed fraud by deceiving members of an Indianapolis
parish into believing Monroe was suited for ministry to young boys.

At stake in most of the lawsuits is a contention by plaintiffs'
attorney Patrick Noaker that the archdiocese should be held liable for
fraud for reassigning Monroe to different parishes after it learned of
allegations of molestation.

Limitation argued

Attorneys for the Indianapolis archdiocese acknowledged in court last
year that Monroe was a "serial predator," but have contended the
victims waited too long to file lawsuits, that the six-year statute of
limitations for fraud had run out and that the cases should be

In December, a Marion County judge sided with the plaintiff in the
first of the 13 cases. He ruled the six-year statute of limitations
did not apply to that lawsuit's fraud allegation because the plaintiff
did not learn until 2005 that the archdiocese knew Monroe had molested
boys before he was assigned to that Indianapolis parish.

The archdiocese appealed that ruling to the Indiana Court of Appeals,
seeking to get that lawsuit dismissed. But the court this week
declined to hear that appeal, meaning the lower court's ruling stands,
and the first of the 13 lawsuits now can proceed to trial. Similar
issues were raised in the other 12 lawsuits, including those involving
the Perry County plaintiffs.

"Placing a priest in a church with access to children in a way
represents to a parish that the priest is safe," Noaker told the Terre
Haute Tribune-Star.

Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the archdiocese, reacted to the

"I think there are probably still several steps in the legal process."

The plaintiffs in all the cases — who were boys at the time of the
alleged incidents but now are adult men in their 30s and 40s — are all
identified in the lawsuits as "John Does," and are not named in court

Twelve of the 13 lawsuits were filed in Marion County courts in 2005,
2006 and 2007. The six local cases were filed there and not in Perry
County because the three parishes where Monroe co-pastored in 1983 and
1984 — St. Paul in Tell City, St. Michael in Cannelton and St. Pius in
Troy — are under the direct jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of
Indianapolis. They are not within the Diocese of Evansville.

Abuse admitted

In a 295-page deposition Monroe gave in the first lawsuit June 8, the
ex-priest admitted to committing some sex acts with adolescent boys he
met at various parishes; but he said he couldn't remember others.
Monroe expressed regret, and described the sexual abuse in the context
of his own alcohol and drug addictions at the time. He testified he
could not afford an attorney and said he would not legally contest the

Indianapolis archdiocesan representatives have said Monroe was removed
from ministry in 1984, but in his deposition Monroe testified he was
never "laicized," or formally removed from the priesthood by the

Monroe, now 59, lives near Nashville, Tenn.

Alan "Ferrit" Ferris

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