A report released last week by the Lexington Diocese of the Catholic Church has 23 priests accused of sexual abuse in eastern and northern Kentucky.
The Daily Independent has identified at least seven accused priests as having posts in the area. One priest was accused last year, but not included on the list.
The founding Bishop of the Diocese — which was carved out of the Covington and Louisville Dioceses in 1988 — has also been accused of sexual misconduct. Bishop James Kendrick Williams, 83, was accused of of abusing two minors while he served in Louisville. He is listed in the Louisville Archdiocese as an abuser and his case has been referred to the Vatican. He resigned in 2002.
The report is the result of a two-year investigation commissioned by church officials, carried out by attorneys independent of the church. The report stresses that the allegations may not be used in a court of law, however 22 are considered “sustained and credible.”
Twelve priests are accused of sexual abuse prior to the formation of the Lexington Diocese. Two priests abused minors after the formation of the Diocese, per the report. Eight priests are listed as working in the Diocese at some point in time, but having reports of abuse in other Dioceses they worked in.
None of the priests listed in the report are currently working in the ministry, according to the church.
In a letter dated Aug. 14, Bishop John Stowe wrote, “It is an indescribable horror to misrepresent Jesus who laid down his life for the sheep.”
“I, along with every priest in the Diocese of Lexington, am very sorry for what this report describes and apologize to every person who has ever been abused or injured in any way by one who was ordained to represent Christ and minister Christ's sacramental and healing presence to his flock,” he wrote.
The following priests have been identified as working in norteastern Kentucky:
Substantiated or Credible Claims
• Stephen Francis Gallenstein, 72: Ordained in the Covington Diocese in 1976, Gallenstein was another transfer to the Lexington Diocese 12 years later. The report states Gallenstein sexually abused a minor over the course of 14 years, during the assignment he had at Holy Family in from 1976 to 1980.
A 2003 class action lawsuit filed against the Covington Diocese revealed that the female victim was 13 years old when the abuse started. The complaint filed in the case indicates Gallenstein began grooming her when she was in the sixth grade during numerous visits to her house. When the victim got into eighth grade, Gallenstein began to kiss and touch her, according to the court filing. He wrote love letters to the victim and peeped in her windows at night, per the filing. When she brought the abuse up to her principal, the nun told her to “say no,” “but did nothing further,” the complaint stated.
Her mother sent letters to Bishop William Hughes regarding the situation, who advised her to have her daughter change schools or move to live with family in another state, per the complaint. Despite leaving the Catholic School, the complaint states Gallenstein continued to contact the victim until she was in her mid-20s.
As a result of the suit — which was settled in Boone County Circuit Court in 2009 — Gallenstein was removed from the ministry in 2003. He was formally stripped of all ministry duties in 2015, per a Vatican ruling.
The abuse has been confirmed through Gallenstein's written admissions, letters sent from the priest to the victim and the lawsuit, according to the report.
The report states Gallenstein went on to serve in posts throughout eastern Kentucky in Pikeville, Salyersville, Elkhorn City, Middlesboro, Pineville and Ravenna between 1980 and 2003. He also served at Church of Jesus Our Savior in Morehead in between 1994 and 1997.
• William Joseph Fedders, age 78: Ordained in 1968 in the Covington Diocese, Fedders transferred to the Lexington Diocese in 1988. Abuse allegations stem from a 2002 civil lawsuit filed in Fayette County alleging Fedders abused a 14-year-old boy in Lexington in the early 1980s. The suit was thrown out due to the statute of limitations, per a Court of Appeals ruling in 2003. However, Fedders was permanently removed from the priesthood in 2004 and the report has determined those allegations substantiated. The report states Fedders admitted to a “single incident of inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor” in response to an allegation that surfaced in 2004.
Fedders worked at Holy Family in Ashland in 1984, St. Michael Church in Paintsville in 1992 and Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church in Morehead in 1997.
• Joseph Nicholas Muench, 65: Another priest from the Covington Diocese, Muench was ordained in 1981. The allegations levied against him relate to abuse of five boys during the 1980s in Frankfort. Two of those victims' allegations resulted in criminal charges — both stated the priest abused them with force. A third victim filed a civil suit in 2009. Muench pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment and attempted sexual abuse in 2010, per the report. When the allegations surfaced, he was suspended from the priesthood. The report states he resigned in 2010 and his case was remanded to the Vatican in 2011.
Muench worked at St. Martha in Prestonsburg, Our Lady of the Way in Martin and St. Luke's in Salyersville from 1986 to 1994.
• Peter Richardson, died in 2014: Ordained in 1986 in the Glenmary Home Missioners, an order of priests serving rural communities. Has no sexual abuse documentation in the Lexington Diocese files, but is listed by Diocese of Jackson (Mississippi), Cincinnati, Nashville and the Glenmary Home Missioners as a substantiated sexual abuser.
According to Mississippi church officials, Richardson operated in the area between 1987 to 1990. He worked in Cincinnati in 2007 and was said to have no parish assignments in Nashville 2004.
Richardson worked at Prince of Peace in West Liberty and St. Julie in Owingsville between 1994 and 2004. In 2005, an allegation surfaced against him in Morgan County, but prosecutors declined to press charges, per an AP report from the time.
Commonwealth Attorney David Flatt told the AP the young man who came forward “was very unclear as to what exactly did happen.”
Richardson was removed from the ministry temporarily until the charges dropped by Morgan County prosecutors. He was stripped again in 2010 and never reinstated.
• David Schilder, 78: Ordained in 1968 and retired from the ministry in 2004, Schilder worked as the prison chaplain at the Ashland Federal Correction Institution from 2001 until his retirement. The Diocese states that federal chaplains are hired by the government, not assigned by the Church. No minors are believed to have been abused while he worked in the area.
Schilder was placed on the list of credible accusations against priests in December 2019 in the Diocese of Columbus. According to a Church press release, the first allegation against Schilder surfaced in 2004 and was tied to conduct in 1968. The Church was unable to substantiate the claim at the time, but forwarded the report to authorities. Schilder retired for health reasons and was told not to engage in public ministry, per the release.
In September 2019, a second accusation surfaced stemming from sexual abuse of another minor between 1981 and 1983. Columbus Police and an independent third party investigated. In November 2019, Church officials determined the allegations were credible enough to place Schilder on their list.
Unsubstantiated Claims or Not Listed
• William G. Poole, died in 2018: Another Covington carryover, Poole was ordained way back in 1953. Accusations of Poole sexually abusing a minor in Martin back in 1973 are considered substantiated by the Covington Diocese, but not the Lexington Diocese.
According to the report, the victim came forward in 2003 to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who in turn notified the Covington and Lexington Dioceses. Covington settled with the victim and Lexington suspended Poole pending its internal probe. Lexington determined the allegation to be substantiated on the grounds that the victim did not cooperate with its investigator and other details of the victim's account did not add up. Lexington also stated that Minnesota Church officials believed the victim was not credible.
Poole was reinstated in 2004, though retired, allowed him to substitute for ill or vacationing priests, according to contemporary news reports.
However, Poole did get into some hot water over the years — he was arrested twice in Jacobson Park in Lexington. According to a news report, he was arrested during a prostitution sting in 1990. Eleven years later, police caught Poole masturbating in a public restroom, according to the news report.
Poole worked at St. Michael Mission in Paintsville from 1965 to 1968 and Our Lady of the Way Hospital and St. Julian in Martin in 1968.
• Father David Glockner, 84: Glockner is not listed in either the Lexington or Covington lists. However, a press release from the Glenmary Home Missioners states that he was recalled from Lewis County, located in the Covington Diocese, after allegations surfaced that he had inappropriately touched two teenaged girls in 2019. Within 24 hours of the allegations being reported, Glockner was removed from his post and Lewis County authorities were called. A grand jury later declined to return an indictment against him. Glockner worked at that post since 2012.
The Diocese of Lexington has asked anyone who has experienced sexual abuse in the Church to contact local authorities and file a report, then call the Victim's Assistance Coordinator at (859) 338-5695.
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