Catholic archdiocese accused of negligence in lawsuit
Parents of a young boy who claim their son was inappropriately photographed by a Roman Catholic priest – currently serving a jail sentence – are suing the Archdiocese of Louisville in Kentucky for negligence.
The Rev Stephen Pohl, above, pleaded guilty in March to a federal charge of viewing child pornography. He admittedaccessing more than 100 pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the St Margaret Mary Catholic Church rectory and office. He was jailed for 33 months.
According to this report, while the criminal charge didn’t involve St Margaret Mary students, investigators did discover hundreds of photos on Pohl’s computers depicting clothed Louisville students, some of which police deemed “child erotica”.
In the newly filed lawsuit, parents Daniel and Mary Agnes Hayden said their elementary school student was among the students secluded by Pohl, ordered into “inappropriate physical poses” and photographed.
Pohl “engaged in bizarre and unusual behavior” and took photos that were:
Designed to enable and did enable Pohl to satisfy his prurient and sexual interests.
The suit blasted the archdiocese, asserting church leadership learned nothing from the priest sex abuse scandal in the early 2000s and failed to aggressively investigate and root out Pohl at the multiple churches where he worked over three decades.
Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman Cecelia Price said the organisation hadn’t yet received the suit and doesn’t comment on pending litigation. But she said:
Families and others impacted by what occurred have been offered assistance, and a number of individuals have received help. We encourage any family who needs assistance to reach out to the parish or our Victim Assistance Coordinator.
The suit noted that Pohl was often seen with a camera around his neck at school and church events, photographed children “in plain view” of archdiocese employees and then stored the inappropriate images on church property, yet no questions were ever raised.
The child was pulled out of his kindergarten class at St Margaret Mary in 2014 by Pohl, who told the boy he was taking photos for the yearbook, the suit alleges. But no photos of the boy ever appeared in the yearbook.
Then at a school fish fry in February 2015, the parents momentarily left their son and other children alone in the care of Pohl in the school gym. When they returned, they found the priest had moved the youth to the school cafeteria, the suit details, and their son explained Pohl had taken more photos for the yearbook.
According to the suit, the child has since suffered emotional distress and now sees a counselor.
The suit, filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit court, seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial. It also asked that the pictures on Pohl’s computers be preserved as evidence.
Police were initially tipped off about Pohl after a 10-year-old St Margaret Mary student told his mother that the priest singled him out at an after-school club to take a number of “weird” photos on his cell phone.
The boy said Pohl had him pose with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, according to court records.
When the boy’s parents confronted the priest about the pictures, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest’s phone and reported it to law enforcement. Pohl was subsequently charged and fired.