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  2 Priests Relieved of Their Duties
Lexington Diocese Mulls Further Action

By Art Jester
Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky)
September 13, 2002

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington announced yesterday it is taking preliminary actions against two veteran priests after learning they had been charged with exposing themselves and masturbating in public in separate incidents in the last four years.

In a prepared statement, the diocese said:

* The Rev. William G. Poole, 66, has retired as sacramental minister at St. Patrick parish in Mount Sterling and will not conduct any public ministry "for the immediate future." Poole, a priest for 39 years, was semi-retired when he accepted the duties at St. Patrick.* The Rev. Kenneth Waibel, 42, will not conduct any public ministry "for the next several weeks" while he will "nominally remain" pastor of St. Joseph parish in Winchester. Waibel has been a priest for 18 years.

Poole and Waibel could not be reached for comment.

Poole and Waibel met Wednesday with three top diocesan officials: the Rev. Robert H. Nieberding, the diocesan administrator; the Rev. Lawrence W. Hehman, the director of priest personnel; and the Rev. Daniel J. Noll, a member of a diocesan advisory committee.

In an interview, Tom Shaughnessy, the diocesan spokesman, said there will be another meeting next Wednesday, after which the "situation will become clearer." He said it was premature to say what final action the diocese might take.

Shaughnessy said the main purpose of Wednesday's meeting was to confirm the accuracy of police and court records.

In the meantime, the diocese sought opinions from the Mount Sterling and Winchester parishes.

"At both places, people acknowledged the leadership and service of Father Poole and Father Waibel, but they expressed serious concerns about whether Poole or Waibel could continue at their parishes," he said.

The diocese also announced yesterday that Elaine Caldwell, the director of religious education at St. Joseph in Winchester, has been appointed the parish's interim pastoral director. She will oversee all parish matters except for the sacraments, which must be administered by an ordained priest.

In the Roman Catholic church, the sacraments are: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist (called communion in some denominations), matrimony, and holy orders (ordination), confession and sacraments of the sick.

The diocese said it is working with the parishes to find priests to celebrate Mass.

The diocese said it was not aware of the arrests and misdemeanor charges against Poole and Waibel until it was contacted by the Herald-Leader for a Sept. 7 article.

Poole was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct on May 17, 2001, after an undercover police officer saw him masturbating at a urinal in a men's public restroom, according to police records. Poole pleaded guilty and was fined $100, according to court records.

Shaughnessy said the diocese was aware that Poole had been arrested on a similar charge at Jacobson Park in 1990. Fayette District Court records of that arrest were not available.

Waibel was charged with indecent exposure at Jacobson Park on Sept. 24, 1998. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, according to court records.

Waibel told the Herald-Leader last week that he had gone cruising for a sex partner at the park only once, and he had hoped the incident would "stay hidden."

In interviews last week with the Herald-Leader, Poole and Waibel questioned the Catholic church's policy of celibacy for priests.

The diocese has declined to comment on the 1998 arrest of the Rev. Charles Howell. He also was charged with indecent exposure after police saw him masturbating in front of two men at Jacobson Park, according to police records.

Howell pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. In 2001, he was transferred from the Cathedral of Christ the King to St. William parish in London.

The diocese said its lawyers have advised it not to comment on Howell's case because some of the details are included in material under court seal in a lawsuit.

 
 

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