Local Priest Involved in Abuse Settlement

By: Jenny Rabin
By: Jenny Rabin

On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky settled the second largest sexual abuse by priests' lawsuit in the history of the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese will pay $25.7 million to 243 people who say they were sexually abused by priests. Eleven of those people named in the lawsuit say Monsignor Robert Bowling, now retired from Reno's Little Flower Church, sexually molested them.

Nine of those people say Monsignor Bowling molested them when he headed up a parish in Kentucky from 1955 to 1965.

Bowling moved to Reno in 1969 and became pastor of Reno's Little Flower Church in 1974.

Two women say during his time here in Reno, he sexually abused them.

Monsignor Robert Bowling took a leave of absence when the first claims of sexual abuse surfaced one year ago and, shortly thereafter, he became sick and retired.

"Monsignor is extremely ill. Last I saw him he was bedridden," says his lawyer, John Arrascada. " We are hopeful that he will recover but that is uncertain at this time."

Monsignor Bowling has denied the accusations of sexual abuse from day one - accusations that his good friend, Brother Matthew Cunningham, says are just too hard to believe.

"All of us were surprised and really kind-of shocked," Cunninghma says.

"Because in the thirty some years that he'd been associated with the Diocese, there had never been any kind-of allegations or innuendos about sexual misconduct with minors or any of that and he's had a school associated with his parish all these years and none of those students ever came forward to say there had been any misconduct," he says.

The nine allegations against Monsignor Bowling in Louisville did involve the sexual abuse of children but the two allegations here in Reno involved adults.

One woman claims Monsignor Bowling sexually abused her when she went to his office at Little Flower to discuss becoming Catholic. The other woman says Bowling molested her at Saint Mary's Hospital when she was six months pregnant.

"Monsignor has told me that he doesn't recall either of these two women," says Arrascada.

"He just celebrated his 75th birthday and he just celebrated fifty years as a priest and, in this last year, now it's like a cloud hanging over his head and no matter what the outcome of all of it is, it always ends up as oh yeah, he was the one who," Cunningham says.

The Archdiocese says the settlement is not an admission of guilt. The archdiocese says it settled because taking all 243 plaintiffs to trial would have resulted in bankruptcy for the church.

"When I advised the Monsignor of the resolution of all 240 some odd cases in a global settlement that the Archdiocese reached with the plaintiffs, he was pleased for the Archdiocese and pleased for all claimants that they could reach closure on this very unfortunate case," Arrascada says.

"He says it did not happen and our inclination is to accept that word from him," says Arrascada.

The Archdiocese of Louisville says it expects to pay the $25 million wiithin the month.

As we told you earlier, this is the second largest sexual abuse settlement by the Catholic church - the largest sexual abuse settlement in the Catholic church's history was back in 1998 in Dallas.


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