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  Diocese Suspends 2 Priests for a Year
Had Exposed Selves at Jacobson Park

By Frank E. Lockwood
Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky)
September 20, 2002

The Diocese of Lexington announced yesterday it was issuing one-year suspensions to two Catholic priests who pleaded guilty to charges of exposing themselves at Jacobson Park.

The Revs. Kenneth P. Waibel and William G. Poole have resigned their parish posts at the diocese's request, church officials said yesterday.

Waibel, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Winchester, and Poole won't be kicked out of the priesthood, but they must refrain from public ministry for a year, according to a statement released by diocese spokesman Thomas F. Shaughnessy.

The punishment is subject to review in six months if Pope John Paul II appoints a new bishop to head the Lexington diocese.

A three-member diocese panel headed by Diocesan Administrator Father Robert H. Nieberding requested the priests' resignation from their parish posts after learning earlier this month from the Herald-Leader of their fellow clerics' cases.

Church law required the diocese to take disciplinary action against the priests, Shaughnessy said.

The diocese, which had previously labeled the priests' conduct as "scandalous," will continue to provide for their living expenses, Shaughnessy said.

"As long as they're priests, essentially the church owes them support," he said.

It is uncertain what will happen to Waibel, 42, and Poole, 67, once they complete their yearlong suspension.

Shaughnessy said it is "extremely unlikely" that either man would be returned to his parish. Poole had announced his "retirement" as sacramental minister at St. Patrick parish in Mount Sterling earlier this month.

Neither Waibel or Poole could be reached for comment yesterday.

In past interviews with the Herald-Leader, both men acknowledged that they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after being caught exposing themselves. Both men also questioned the church's celibacy requirements.

These comments caused further problems for the priests, Shaughnessy said. "They were publicly saying that they did not hold with something that the church teaches. That would add to the scandal of their behavior."

The disclosure was especially painful for the 140 households who belong to St. Patrick.

Waibel had once served as the church's pastor. He later served as the parish's sacramental minister, and was replaced by Poole.

At St. Patrick Catholic Church, pastoral director Joan Houk predicted most parishioners will approve of the diocese's decision.

"I believe that now the people will be able to heal, they will be able to pull together and begin to really concentrate on what it means to be the church here," she said.

Parishioners were not told about Waibel's 1998 guilty plea on a harassment charge after Lexington police accused him of indecent exposure and masturbation at a public park.

Parish leaders said they did not know about Poole's 2001 guilty plea for "disorderly conduct" until after he was arrested after being observed masturbating in a public restroom at Jacobson Park. Poole had faced similar charges after a 1990 incident, diocesan officials say.

Poole recently sent a letter of apology to the parish and has sought counseling, Shaughnessy said.

A third priest who police arrested in 1998 for indecent exposure at Jacobson Park, Father Charles Howell, continues to minister in London. Diocese officials have declined to discuss the details of his case.

Diocese officials hope to help the parishes in Winchester and Mount Sterling heal. Nieberding, the diocese's top official, personally presided over masses at Winchester last weekend. And masses have continued without interruption in both parishes.

Still, the healing may take time, Shaughnessy suggests.

"They'll recover, but it's not something that's going to happen in days or even necessarily weeks," he said, adding, "This is quite a blow to these communities."

 
 

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