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Notorious pedophile ex-priest dies in prison

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/03/2017 Andrew Wolfson

Editor's note: This article contains disturbing content.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A former priest convicted of sexually abusing 29 children at four parishes under the watch of three archbishops — and accused in lawsuits of molesting dozens — died in prison where he was serving a 30-year sentence.

Louis Miller, 86, the most prolific of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s abusive priests was accused in civil cases of molesting at least 52 boys and four girls over 40 years, in locker rooms, hallway closets, hospital rooms and church sacristies. The archdiocese has 110 parishes and missions in 24 central Kentucky counties and now has 140 priests in its parishes.

Miller, in prison since 2003, died Saturday at the Kentucky State Reformatory in the Louisville suburb of LaGrange, Ky.

In Louisville's Holy Spirit parish alone, Miller molested 24 students, including 14 members of the class of 1963 who were in sixth grade at the time, according to lawsuits filed in Jefferson Circuit Court filed on behalf of 243 victims that the archdiocese settled in 2008 for $25.7 million. Miller was moved from parish to parish as abuse was reported.

In a statement Monday, the archdiocese noted that Miller, who was removed from the priesthood in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, “expressed sorrow for his actions and begged victims' forgiveness” at his sentencing a year earlier.

“The archdiocese extends its sympathy to Mr. Miller’s family,” the statement said. “In praying for the repose of his soul, we also pray for continued healing for his victims and for all victims of childhood sexual abuse.”

Dr. William Handelman, one of his victims at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, said Miller lived "a long life before he was caught" and "finally some justice was served."

Lawyer Bill McMurry, the lead attorney for the victims, said in email Monday that Miller remains one of the most prolific pedophile priests in U.S. history and abused nearly 90 of his clients.

“Louis Miller’s under-oath testimony in my cases still haunts me today,” McMurry said.

He said evidence in the lawsuits showed that Miller knew he couldn’t control himself and asked the Rev. John Floersh, archbishop from 1937 to 1967, and the Rev. Thomas McDonough, archbishop from 1967 to 1981, for permission to leave the ministry. But McMurry said they wouldn’t let him, instead telling him, “Go and sin no more.”

Miller died after a long illness, said spokeswoman Lisa Lamb of the Kentucky Corrections Department.

He had been denied parole in 2009 and ordered to serve 15 more years before he was eligible to request it again.

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In 2003, Miller was convicted in Jefferson County Circuit Court of sexually abusing 21 children and in neighboring Oldham County of abusing eight more.

The first accusation dated to the early 1950s, when he allegedly sexually abused a boy while working as a counselor at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County, Ky., now part of the public Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area about 30 miles southwest of Louisville.

Adults in the parishes of "Father Lou” held him in high regard, The Courier-Journal reported in a 2002 story.

Seven years after he left St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, he was still so admired in the parish's working-class Louisville neighborhood that in 1997 he was named the Schnitzelburg neighborhood's "No. 1 Citizen.''

But victims described him as a predator who stalked children, using the authority of his collar for his sexual gratification.

Only one victim, one of Miller’s own nieces, Mary C. Miller, reported him to police, the newspaper found. But eight of them or their parents said they told a priest, principal or the archdiocese about Miller's alleged abuse at or near the time it happened.

If their recollections were accurate, that meant that he was reported at least once in each of the four Louisville-area parishes where he worked.

“For some survivors, knowing the predator has died is comforting,” said Barbara Dorris, victims outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Most survivors come forward in part because they fear he still poses a threat to children.

"With his death, they feel relief that children are safe. We hope that anyone harmed by Miller will find the courage to step forward and begin healing,” she said.

Miller was born in 1930, the fourth of eight children, and grew up in Louisville's West End in a devoutly Catholic family whose life revolved around the old St. George parish. One of his aunts was a nun as was a cousin, and two more cousins were priests.

His father worked for what was the Louisville & Nashville Railroad for years then ran his own hardware store while his mother tended to the children, seven of them boys. After three years at the old Flaget High School, he trained at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology about 60 miles west of Louisville in St. Meinrad, Ind., before he was ordained May 26, 1956.

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