News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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August 18, 2010

Trial date set in civil lawsuit against former Catholic priest with TH ties

TERRE HAUTE — An August 2011 date has been set in the civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a former Catholic priest who has admitted to molesting children while assigned to St. Patrick’s parish in Terre Haute from 1979 to 1981.

“We’re very happy about the trial date,” said Pat Noaker, a Minnesota attorney in the case representing “John Doe CW,” who claims that former priest Harry Monroe molested him while Monroe was a priest and youth minister at St. Patrick.

“We’re thinking it is time to bring this to trial,” Noaker said.

The Aug. 15, 2011, civil trial date was set Tuesday during a telephone conference among Judge David Bolk of Vigo Circuit/Superior Court 3, the attorneys representing John Doe CW and the attorneys representing the archdiocese and Monroe.

“It is our intention to file a motion for summary judgment and a ruling on the statute of limitations,” John Mercer, an Indianapolis attorney for the archdiocese, told the Tribune-Star on Tuesday afternoon. “The judge gave us 180 days to do that.”

The case was filed in June 2006, and is among 14 cases that have been filed against Monroe and the archdiocese by victims alleging sexual abuse at the hands of Monroe, according to Mercer. One of those cases has been settled.

“Monroe was a well-known predator who had already been in treatment by the time he was sent to Terre Haute,” Noaker said of the former priest, who was reassigned to a southern Indiana parish after being placed on leave for a year in 1981.

In a 2007 deposition related to the local case, Monroe admitted to molesting at least five boys and playing sex games with others.

Noaker said he feels the archdiocese is doing everything it can to keep the case from coming to trial, including filing the motion that the statute of limitations has expired, and that Monroe can no longer be held accountable for those past actions.

But Noaker said he has found that it is a common pattern for these abuse victims to come forward later in life as they have their own children. Noaker also said it is also a big concern to several of his clients that Monroe, who resides in Nashville, Tenn., still has access to children. At one time after his move to Tennessee, Noaker said, Monroe was employed by a health care facility where he could work around children.

Since there has been no criminal conviction of Monroe, Noaker said, there is no legal record of the former priest being a sexual predator or being convicted of a sex-abuse crime, which would show up in a background check by a future employer.

Noaker said he expects five days worth of testimony for both the plaintiff and defense testimony, if the case comes to trial as scheduled. He said he expects John Doe CW to testify, along with experts who will testify how the victim was injured by the alleged actions of Monroe.

Monroe could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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