St. Margaret Mary parents sue Louisville archdiocese over ex-priest
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court, is at least the second such action related to former pastor Stephen Pohl, who pleaded guilty in January to possessing child pornography and was sentenced in March to 33 months in federal prison.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The parents of a boy who attended St. Margaret Mary School have sued the Archdiocese of Louisville, alleging the church should have known that a former parish priest who took inappropriate photographs of students was “dangerously unsuitable” for his job.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court, is at least the second such action related to ex-pastor Stephen Pohl, who pleaded guilty in January to possessing child pornography and was sentenced in March to 33 months in federal prison.
Among other claims, it accuses the Roman Catholic archdiocese of failing to report Pohl’s behavior to police and giving “meaningless assurances of child safety” despite pledges to find and remove abusive priests in the wake of a sweeping abuse settlement in the 2000s.
“The fact that for decades Pohl could engage in the possession and distribution of child pornography and take thousands of sexually exploitative photographs of children tells the faithful followers of the Church, including the parishioners and families of St. Margaret Mary students, that their children are not safe and that the decades of callous leadership, denial and complacency did not change with these promises,” attorney William F. McMurry, the parents’ attorney, wrote in the complaint.
McMurry was the lead attorney in a $25.7 million verdict against the archdiocese in a 2003 involving sex abuse allegations of 243 children by priests.
WDRB News is not naming the parents in the lawsuit filed last week to protect their son’s identity.
The archdiocese does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Cecelia Price said Monday. Pohl was hired in 1985 and worked at five archdiocese churches and schools, including in Louisville and Bardstown, according to the lawsuit.
Pohl is accused of taking pictures of clothed children in unsuitable poses meant to “satisfy his prurient and sexual interests,” the lawsuit says. An archdiocese official said last year that Pohl had as many as 200 photos of St. Margaret Mary students on cameras, laptop and other devices.
In their lawsuit filed last week, the parents say Pohl stopped by their son’s kindergarten class in 2014 and asked that the boy leave class to be photographed for the school yearbook. The suit claims no one else was present, despite church promises that priests would not be left alone with children.
The photos never appeared in the yearbook, the lawsuit claims.
Pohl also took pictures of the boy at the school cafeteria during a Lent fish fry at St. Margaret Mary in early 2015, the lawsuit claims. The parents say they and other parents had seen the priest carrying a camera at school and parish events with children.
They say in the lawsuit they were told that some of Pohl’s photos showed their son in “inappropriate physical poses” allegedly directed by the priest.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, a jury trial and other costs. The parents also are asking for a court order preserving the photographs of their son that were seized by law enforcement agents.
A similar lawsuit filed by St. Margaret Mary parents in March is pending in Jefferson Circuit Court.
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