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Archdiocese wants lawsuits dismissed
INDIANAPOLIS - A man who allegedly sexually abused five boys while serving as a priest in Tell City, Cannelton and Troy has admitted to sexually abusing some others and admitted "he may have also had contact with others," according to a lawyer representing 17 people who've accused the former clergyman of the crime.
Minneapolis attorney Patrick Noaker said Monday afternoon he felt he'd just successfully argued against the first of several summary-judgment requests from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to stop civil suits filed against that organization and former priest Harry A. Monroe.
If granted, a summary judgment would be a declaration that the plaintiff could not pursue a case.
Monday's case did not involve any of the five current or former Perry County residents who are among the former parishioners who claim Monroe sexually abused them during assignments in Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Tell City.
The lawsuits were all filed in Marion (County) Superior Court, Indianapolis.
As The News reported in August, Noaker said then Monroe had "indicated he no longer wished to dispute the lawsuits."
The archdiocese, however, wanted the cases thrown out through summary judgments, arguing that a statute of limitations has expired on all of the alleged crimes, the attorney explained.
Noaker has maintained that Monroe and the archdiocese committed fraud by giving Monroe jobs supervising children.
In so doing, the archdiocese was representing to each of the parishes he would serve that the priest was safe. Noaker argues that, based on the recent discoveries of the allegedly fraudulent nature of those representations, the cases should be heard.
According to a report in Monday's Indianapolis Star, attorney Jay Mercer asked Judge David A. Shaheed to rule in favor of the archdiocese on the basis that the claim was filed too late. He said it should have been made by the time the plaintiff, now in his early 40s, turned 20.
"Before making that case," Star writer Robert King reported, "Mercer did what the archdiocese had denied in its initial responses to the lawsuits - he acknowledged the former priest's abuse."
"Harry Monroe was a child molester and a sexual predator who committed some heinous crimes against young boys in the late 1970s and 1980s," King quoted Mercer as saying. "Unfortunately, Harry Monroe never spent any time in jail for these crimes."
King provided several reports Friday and this week, all of which available at www.indystar.com.
A 1976 letter from the archdiocese mentioned allegations Monroe had acted inappropriately with children, Noaker said Monday, proving church officials knew by then he was a potential threat.
Monroe is alleged to have taken youngsters on camping trips, and "on one trip, he took a boy's pants off and smeared his buttocks with peanut butter," Noaker said, explaining the incident was the subject of a written complaint from the boy's parents.
"He testified he was never told to stop taking boys on camping trips," Noaker added.
The attorney said a letter written to Monroe by the archdiocese, assigning him to the Tell City area, was sent to Monroe while he was residing at House of Affirmation in Montara, Calif., which Noaker called a sexual-offenders treatment facility, proving officials knew he posed a threat to children.
"That's just unbelievable," he said.
Monroe was appointed co-pastor to the St. Paul, St. Michael and St. Pius parishes in Tell City, Cannelton and Troy, respectively, in June 1982. His "faculties to minister as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis" were withdrawn Aug. 2, 1984, by the Most Rev. Edward O'Meara, archbishop of Indianapolis.
In a deposition Noaker provided to The News, portions of which were redacted by court order, Monroe said he didn't recall a number of specific sexual encounters the attorney asked him about, but acknowledged they could have happened. When asked about one complainant's allegation that he offered the boy a hunting knife in exchange for a chance to perform oral sex on him, he replied, "I probably did. I don't remember it, but I think I probably did."
Monroe told Noaker during the deposition no one ever told him to stop taking boys on camping trips. He did recall one conversation with the archbishop, however.
"The only part of it I can remember him saying to me was that I had a ... very severe issue with my sexuality and I was too dangerous to be in the priesthood and too dangerous, that ... I needed to seek help and that it was for the benefit of the archdiocese and the people of the archdiocese that I find another ..."
Monroe didn't finish the sentence, according to the deposition transcript, but said he believed the conversation took place after he was removed from St. Paul.
Noaker said many more summary-judgment motions remain to be addressed over the next six months, and many more depositions must be completed. He said trials may begin as early as next summer.