By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Church officials in Lexington and Covington acted quickly Friday to place a priest and a teacher on a leave of absence after a Cincinnati lawyer said the Covington Diocese spent more than two decades concealing claims the men sexually abused teen-agers.
One of the employees is a priest now assigned to a parish within the Lexington Diocese. Church officials there confirmed they removed Rev. Stephen Gallenstein from Frankfort's only Catholic parish after learning of the allegations from a reporter Thursday.
The other man is still working within the Covington Diocese. Officials at that diocese said they suspended a teacher at a school but declined to name the person or school.
The Covington Diocese on Friday evening issued its first statement - a one-page press release - on the allegations that it hid claims of sexual abuse, including claims about Gallenstein and the unidentified person.
Covington Diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said the diocese turned over all its personnel files on priests who were part of the new Lexington Diocese to the bishop of Lexington in 1989. Until 1988, Lexington was part of the Covington Diocese.
Lexington Diocese spokesman Thomas Shaughnessy said Gallenstein likely would have never been assigned to Good Shepherd Parish in Frankfort had church leaders in Covington shared their files on the priest with the bishop of Lexington.
Fitzgerald explained by saying Covington's files contain no references to sexual misconduct by Gallenstein and that church leaders in Northern Kentucky have no knowledge of any sexual misconduct on the part of Gallenstein.
Fitzgerald said the diocese stands by a statement made by Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys last month. In a public apology to the 89,000 Roman Catholics in the 14-county diocese, Foys said he was not aware of any priest who has abused a minor.
"I can assure you now that, to the best of my knowledge, there is no priest in public ministry in the Diocese of Covington who has abused a minor," Foys wrote in an open letter.
Lexington Bishop Ronald W. Gainer was in Rome this week attending a Vatican orientation for newly ordained bishops and couldn't be reached for comment. .
Questions were raised about the two men when attorney Stan Chesley, a Cincinnati lawyer known nationwide for his work in class-action lawsuits, said the pair were still in active ministry despite allegations of sex abuse. He made the charge after a Boone County judge ordered the Covington Diocese archives released to Chesley, attorney for victims of alleged abuse by priests in Northern Kentucky.
After reviewing the church files, Chesley claims there are likely 500 to 1,000 people who were abused by priests in the Covington Diocese during the last 50 years. Fitzgerald said Friday the diocese has received 158 credible allegations of abuse during that time.
Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger ordered the archives sealed, but some details were released in a legal brief filed by Chesley on Wednesday, although large portions of the brief had been redacted to conceal the identities of the victims and accused.
The legal document refers to Gallenstein as "Priest 31." It says he molested and stalked a 13-year-old girl in 1979 and 1980 at an unidentified school.
The Official Catholic Directory, published by P.J. Kenedy & Sons, lists Gallenstein as serving at the Holy Family Church and School in Ashland at the time of the allegations.
The abuse was reported to then Bishop William Hughes, and the priest was reassigned nine times since 1982. Most of his posts were in rural eastern Kentucky.
Gallenstein did not return phone calls to his home in Frankfort or the church office Thursday and Friday.
The second person, whom the Covington Diocese refused to identify, was referred to as "Priest 32."
Chesley said this priest was one of many who were part of a ring of priests who held parties in which they brought boys as their dates in the 1970s. Among those priests was Earl Bierman, new serving a 20-year prison sentence in LaGrange for molesting six teenage boys in the 1960s and 1970s.
Chesley said Bierman abused one youth for several years and passed the boy around to other priests - including "Priest 32."
The youth "was routinely fondled, hugged, kissed, whispered to in the most vulgar terms, and his body parts were rubbed," according to court documents.
The 11-year-old boy, now grown, said "Priest 32" was highly placed at the school and threatened him with bad grades and punishment.
In 1976, the priest was sent away for treatment and disappeared, but last year the victim saw the man's picture in a school publication announcing that he was returning there to teach, Chesley said.
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