Report: Indianapolis Diocese Officials Knew of Alleged Abuse

January 27, 2009

Church documents show the Archdiocese of Indianapolis knew about alleged sexual abuse by one of its priests while it was occurring but reassigned him to other churches and never notified police, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Documents obtained through a court petition by the newspaper show that church officials knew about allegations against Harry Monroe as early as 1976, when they sought counseling for the priest. Lawsuits claim Monroe molested numerous boys between 1974 and 1984 at churches in Indianapolis, Terre Haute and southern Indiana’s Perry County.

Monroe, whose last known residence was in Nashville, Tenn., has given a deposition in which he admitted lewd behavior or sex acts with several boys in various parishes where he served in Indiana.

Church documents show that two former Indianapolis archbishops — the Most Rev. George J. Biskup and the Most Rev. Edward T. O’Meara — were aware of the abuse allegations at the time, but didn’t report them to police and continued to assign Monroe to new parish positions. Church officials also sought mental health care for Monroe through a clinic that treated troubled priests from across the United States.

“This is a smoking gun,” said David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It is a clear indication that the hierarchy knew very early on, not about one incident, not about mere suspicions, but they knew enough and were worried enough that they sent him out of state for treatment.”

Jay Mercer, attorney for the archdiocese, said the church acted to ensure that a troubled priest received treatment and Monroe was returned to ministry only after the clinic assured church officials that he posed no threat to children.

“In this case, the bishop looked to the experts and the experts said to him this was not a concern,” said Mercer.

A 1976 evaluation by the clinic concluded that Monroe was emotionally immature, with a rigid personality, but concluded he was not mentally ill.

“We also did not view him as presenting the profile of a child molester,” wrote the psychologist and therapy director. The clinic did, however, urge follow-up psychotherapy, a recommendation the Star said wasn’t followed.

The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment Sunday at a number listed for a Harry Monroe in Nashville, Tenn.

Since 2005, 13 accusers have filed lawsuits against Monroe and the archdiocese claiming they were abused by the priest. The archdiocese has denied any liability in the lawsuits.

The criminal statute of limitations expired before the alleged victims came forward as adults. Monroe was never prosecuted.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

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