Marion Co. priest faces new allegation of child sexual abuse
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The pastor of two Roman Catholic parishes in Marion County has been placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Louisville after he was accused for a second time of child sexual abuse.
According to the Archdiocese, the accuser came forward on May 8 and reported that Fr. Joseph Hemmerle abused him as a child in Meade County during the 1970s. Hemmerle was ordained to the priesthood in 1967 and currently serves as pastor of St. Francis and Holy Cross parishes in Marion County.
Joe Williamson leads the choir at St. Francis. He has known Hemmerle for years and says he can't believe the allegations are true.
"I've talked to him personally and he tells me he don't know where this person comes up this, these ideas, the stuff that he was saying," said Williamson.
According to Hemmerle's assignment record on bishopaccountability.org, he was the director and camp counselor for Camp Tall Trees in Meade County for 30 years. During that same time he also was teacher at Trinity High School.
Colleen Powell is a leader for the Louisville Chapter of SNAP or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She says its common for sexual abuse to be reported decades later.
"When my abuse happened I was 12 and it took me until I was in my 50s to come out," said Powell.
Hemmerle was previously accused of child sexual abuse in 2002. The accuser in that case also reported having been sexually abused by Hemmerle in the 1970s, and the priest was placed on administrative leave. After several months of investigating, neither police nor the Archdiocese was able to substantiate the accusation, so Hemmerle was allowed to return to the ministry.
"These are not easy things and I think sometimes the public thinks survivors just pull this out to cause trouble and chaos for the church, no," said Powell.
In a written statement, the Archdiocese said it has written to the Commonwealth Attorney in Meade County to report the accusation and has advised the person making the accusation to contact authorities.
"I just don't believe that he is going to be found guilty of something like this," said Williamson.
The Archdiocese is urging anyone who has been victimized by a member of the clergy or a church employee to contact Martine Siegel, victim assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, at 502-636-1044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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