LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As testimony began in a long-delayed trial against former Catholic priest James Schook, a witness said Tuesday that he had numerous sexual encounters with Schook, beginning at age 13, at a Louisville church in the 1970s.
Schook was indicted on seven sodomy charges in 2011, but he sought several delays of the court proceedings as he battled terminal skin cancer.
The witness, Richard Whitfield, said Tuesday that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Schook that began when he was 13 and lasted through high school.
Whitfield, 56, told the jury that he began having sexual encounters with Schook in the summer of 1971.
"I had this feeling we were probably doing something wrong," Whitfield testified to the Jefferson Circuit Court jury, which was selected on Monday. He said most of the alleged abused occurred in Schook's room in the rectory at St. Rita Catholic Church in Louisville.
"The doors were closed and we were just very quiet," Whitfield said.
Whitfield had expressed an interest in becoming a priest, and the two grew close as Schook was going through seminary, Whitfield testified. Whitfield served as an altar boy at Schook's first church service after Schook was ordained a priest in 1975.
The second alleged victim, Michael Stansbury, said he was abused by Schook at St. Thomas More Church in Louisville, where Schook was an assistant pastor.
Last year, a doctor at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center declared Schook to be very ill but competent and healthy enough to stand trial. Schook appeared in court Tuesday using a walker.
His attorney, David Lambertus, told the jury during his opening statement that the victims waited three or four decades to come forward with the abuse allegations. Lambertus said Schook succumbed to "human frailty" but said Schook did not break the law.
Whitfield said that for years he was too ashamed to report the alleged abuse.
"In the 1970s, that was a total taboo subject," Whitfield said.
Lambertus argued during a hearing last year that Schook was so ill and incapacitated that a criminal trial would be a "mockery." Schook's brother, Jesse Schook, testified in court last year that Schook had lost about 60 pounds and suffers from intense pain, dizziness and has paranoid episodes.
Prosecutors argued that Schook was exaggerating his symptoms to avoid a criminal trial.
Schook was permanently removed from ministry in 2010.