Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Margie Weiter, a former employee of the Archdiocese of Louisville, and her husband, Gary, who allege that the Archdiocese fired her in retaliation for speaking out about the church’s apparent sheltering of sexually abusive priests.
“We cannot believe it,” Gary Weiter tells LEO Weekly. “My wife is devastated. These people spend all of this money to keep us out of court. They will spend as much money as they can to keep people from knowing the truth. It makes me sick.”
Citing First and Fourteenth Amendments that prohibit circuit courts “from deciding ecclesiastical matters,” Perry’s eight-page opinion claims that the courts have no jurisdiction over the church’s practice of ferrying priests accused and indicted of sexual abuse of minors to and from different parishes, and in so doing excuses the practice from criminal prosecution, a practice which formed the crux of an article appearing in the Apr. 27, 2011 edition of LEO, as well as part of a Feb. 23, 2011 cover story.
Their suit alleges that the Archdiocese of Louisville knowingly allowed a pedophile priest, the Rev. James Schook, to live at the St. Therese parish rectory and be around children without supervision, and that when Margie brought the information to the attention of parish personnel, she was fired from her job as a bookkeeper.
Schook was removed from the priesthood in July 2009, after the archdiocese deemed the allegations brought against him — that he abused several boys in the 1970s and ’80s — were credible. Additionally, the suit claims that St. Therese pastor Fr. Anthony Olges covered up this information. Further, the suit alleges Schook wasn’t laicized, meaning he still is eligible for health care benefits and retirement compensation from the church.
The Weiters’ attorney, Mikell Grafton, called the ruling “a very sad day for the youth of Kentucky.”
“I am deeply saddened that the Archdiocese has clothed itself in the First Amendment to protect priests whose abusive conduct has been substantiated and about which the Archdiocese has been aware for years,” Grafton said in a statement. “Margie Weiter stood up to protect vulnerable childeren and not only was humiliated, but also the Archdiocese decided she was not even fit to work at her job. I assume that means that in reality, the Archdiocese would prefer employees who would stand quiet in the face of potential abuse.”
Weiter adds that he and Margie will discuss their options with their attorney, but say that the process has taken its toll on their personal lives.
“The state is aiding the church in our case,” Weiter says. “It’s sickening. We wanted our day in court. That’s all we wanted.”
Cal Pfeiffer, a member of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Preists, aka SNAP, released a statement on the ruling.
“The clear message from Judge Perry’s ruling is that the children of the Archdiocese of Louisville cannot rely upon their teachers, employees or volunteers to speak out to protect them when they see dangerous people or situations in their schools or churches,” Pfeiffer says. “The Archdiocese of Louisville, having a notorious past of sexual abuse of children, say they want a safe envrionment, yet when someone points out unsafe situations they can be fired for speaking up. Let the wolves in sheep’s clothing reign free.”
The Archidiocese has, so far, abstained from comment.