At a press conference held Friday, Most Reverend William F. Medley, Bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, released the names of several priests who have been permanently removed from ministry, including nine priests ordained for the Diocese of Owensboro, four from another diocese or religious order and two of which occurred outside of the Diocese of Owensboro.
Bishop Medley began by reading aloud a letter that provided acknowledgment and apologies toward those who had suffered at the hands of a priest.
“Today as a Church we seek to again acknowledge the sins of sexual abuse of children by people they should have been able to trust without reserve,” Medley read. “For all the times when Church leaders failed to live out Christ’s call to holiness and did not do what was needed to keep you and your children safe, I am sorry.”
Medley also apologized to those in the Diocese of Owensboro, as well as to the priests who have never harmed a child.
“You have suffered from the stain rendered upon the priesthood by the misconduct of others,” Medley said. “Thankfully, since 2002 there has been significant reform in how the Church in the United States handles allegations of sexual abuse. We operate under a zero-tolerance policy. Additionally, robust measures have been put into place to prevent abuse, including background checks for those who work with children and training for both children and adults.”
The number of sexual misconduct allegations against priests has decreased over the years, according to Medley. Through the hiring of a non-local private investigator, Medley said former chairs of the Diocesan Review Board worked diligently over a months-long period to finalize the list of names. The review board deemed the allegations and claims of sexual abuse made toward these priests to be true.
For an allegation to be substantiated, probable cause must be uncovered in the process. Probable cause can be determined through admission of guilt by the accused, the accused does not contest the allegation, a guilty finding rendered by a court or a finding rendered by an investigative process shows cause for believing the allegation is true on an objective basis.
Medley said the diocese was working to be more transparent with the public regarding allegations of sexual abuse in the Church. However, he also acknowledged that the history of sexual misconduct on behalf of priests had led many to lose faith in the Church.
“I hope this is a step toward restoring that [faith] and reassuring those who hold onto their faith as well as they can,” Medley said.
When asked whether recent allegations made toward Fr. Ed Bradley — claims that led to a temporary suspension for the popular local priest — had been substantiated, Medley said the investigation was still ongoing.
“I do not have updates at this time,” Medley said. “You’ll notice that his name is not included on this list. The review board continues to collect information, and we’re trying to act as expeditious as we can.”
Revealing the list of priests with substantiated claims made against them was a move that, in large part, stemmed from the public requesting more transparency from the diocese.
“And, [the decision comes from] following the lead of many dioceses and archdioceses around the country who have done this and believe that it’s a good thing. That it’s an accountable thing,” Medley said.
Medley said the decision to hire a private investigator for these cases was “not inexpensive,” although he couldn’t provide exact numbers. The cost for each case varied based on how many interviews the investigator conducted–some cases required only three to four interviews, while others required dozens. No local law enforcement agencies were used for any of the cases.
Compensation has been offered toward victims since 1937, Medley said, as well as counseling and support programs. New victims continue to come forward, and Medley specifically mentioned at least three new allegations toward priests made since October. Each of those three allegations took place in the 1940s. While other recent reports have also been made, Medley hopes more transparency in the Church can help prevent decades of time to stand between the abuse that occurs and the reports that are made.
“New victims do come forward,” Medley said. “My hope is that this presentation, this publication, will give someone the grace to do that, either because they recognize the name of a priest who harmed them or someone in their family or, even more troubling, they know someone who harmed them or their family, and their name is not on this list.”
The following is the full list released by the diocese Friday:
Priests ordained for the Diocese of Owensboro
Gerald Baker – Ordained priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1983. Three allegations deemed substantiated by the Diocean Review Board. Removed from public ministry 2016.
Paul Greenwell – Ordained in the Diocese of Louisville in 1928. Became a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1937. Multiple allegations from the 1940s and 1950s deemed substantiated. Left the diocese in 1956. Deceased 1964.
Walter Hancock – Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1947. Multiple allegations deemed substantiated. Removed from public ministry 2002. Deceased 2012.
Gilbert Henninger – Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Louisville in 1937. Became a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1937. Multiple allegations received after his death but deemed substantiated. Deceased 1990.
John Meredith – Obtained a priest in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1980. One allegation deemed substantiated by the Diocean Review Board. Removed from public ministry 2013.
Louis Piskula – Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1975. Six allegations deemed substantiated. From 1994 onward he was in restricted ministry and removed from public ministry in 2002. In 2014, he was convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to prison. Deceased 2018.
John Speaks – Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1974. One allegation deemed substantiated. Removed from public ministry in 2002.
Carroll Wheatley – Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1975. Two allegations deemed substantiated. Removed from public ministry in 2011. Deceased 2013.
Henry Wieder – Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro in in 1989. One allegation of sexual abuse received in 2002 involving incident prior to ordination deemed substantiated. Left active ministry 2003.
Priests from another Diocese of Religious Order
Joseph Alexander – Ordained a priest in 1973 in the Order of St. Benedict. Allegation is from years prior to ordination while at St. Maur’s Seminary in South Union, Kentucky. Considered substantiated and removed from public ministry in 2002.
Joseph Pilger – Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Covington in 1955. Served in the Diocese of Owensboro from 1963 – 1976. Thirteen allegations deemed substantiated. Convicted of child sexual abuse in 1993. Deceased 2003.
Louis Telegdy – Ordained as a priest of the Precious Blood Order in 1942. Served in the Diocese of Owensboro 1972-1978. One allegation received in the Diocese of Owensboro after his death. Three allegations in the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa deemed substantiated. Deceased 1995.
Raymond Waldruff – Ordained a priest as a Franciscan Third Order Regular (TOR) in 1953. Served in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1967 – 1968. Five allegations received; at least two deemed substantiated. Dismissed from the TOR in 1983. Deceased 1985.
Allegations which occurred outside the Diocese of Owensboro
Paul Haas – Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Nashville in 1959. Served in the Diocese of Owensboro 1966-1977. Multiples allegations in Tennessee were deemed substantiated. No allegations received in the Diocese of Owensboro. Deceased 1979.
William Odom-Green – Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Owensboro in 1991. One allegation in the Diocese of Oakland, California in 1999. Convicted of sentenced to prison. No allegations in the Diocese of Owensboro. Removed from public ministry in 1999.