Diocese Puts Two on Leave Amid Claims of Sex Abuse
Covington Priests Deny New Charges
Associated Press, carried in Courier-Journal
May 24, 2004
COVINGTON, Ky. — A high-ranking official in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and another priest have been placed on administrative leave amid allegations that they sexually abused minors.
One of the priests under investigation is the Rev. Gerald Reinersman, who is second-in-command under Bishop Roger Foys in the diocese. As vicar general, Reinersman stands in for the bishop. He also served on the diocese's Committee for Addressing Sexual Misconduct.
Reinersman is accused of abusing a Lexington teenager in 1979. At that time, he was a pastor at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Church.
The Rev. Mark Steidle, a pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Fort Mitchell, is accused of inappropriately touching a minor in 1994 at Marydale Retreat Center.
Both men have denied the allegations.
Foys announced the investigations on Friday in a letter to the diocesan newspaper.
The bishop said the leaves of absence are in accord with diocesan policy, which mirrors a policy adopted by the U.S. bishops at a national conference in 2002. That policy says accused priests should be placed on leave to protect members of the parish.
The allegations are the first to be leveled against either priest, Foys said.
Reinersman, who rose through the ranks in the Northern Kentucky diocese, was appointed to the chancery by Bishop Robert W. Muench. Foys tapped him for his current position in 2002. Reinersman had pending an appointment to become pastor at a Covington parish, starting July1. Foys did not name the parish.
The person accusing Reinersman says his memory of the abuse was repressed until several years ago. The Archdiocese of Chicago is handling the Reinersman investigation to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
Reinersman denied the charges in a letter dated May12: "I absolutely and categorically deny that I have engaged in sexual misconduct with the individual accusing me or any other person," the letter says. "From the first day of my priesthood, twenty-five years ago, I have remained faithful to my promise of celibate chastity. ... My conscience is clear as I stand before God and any person."
Steidle was ordained in 1993 and has held his position in Fort Mitchell since last year. He also has denied the charges. He did not provide the diocese with a statement.
Robert Steinberg, a Cincinnati attorney who has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of alleged molestation victims in the Covington Diocese since the 1950s, said one of his clients is Steidle's accuser.
Steinberg declined to provide any information about his client, who is now an adult.
"This case illustrates why we are asking for a screening of all priests, not just the ones who are newly hired," Steinberg said.
His office has been contacted by 100 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, Steinberg said.
The suit contends that the diocese mishandled claims against its clerics.
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