Remove Priest, Report Urged
Abuse Allegations Made against Cleric in Richmond Area " Are Believable"
By Steven G. Vegh
August 15, 2002
A Diocese of Richmond investigative team reported 10 weeks ago to Bishop Walter F. Sullivan that sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. John E. Leonard were credible and that the Henrico County priest should be removed from parish duty to receive "extended" inpatient psychological treatment.
The team sent its report to Sullivan on June 7. Sullivan, who had put Leonard on leave pending the inquiry, reinstated him as the pastor at St. Michael Church in Glen Allen on June 18.
According to a copy of the report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, four men testified to six incidents of "sexual abuse or misconduct" by Leonard in the 1960s and 1970s while they were students at St. John Vianney Seminary high school.
A fifth self-described victim alleged "repeated abuse over an eight-year period (1969-1977)," the report stated.
Leonard, a teacher and principal at the Goochland school from 1968 until it closed in 1978, emphatically told the team he did not abuse anyone.
The report also stated, "During this review, we discovered allegations against three other faculty members which caused us to wonder if this case was the 'tip of the iceberg.' " No names were given.
"We are convinced that the witnesses in this case are believable, and that Fr. Leonard's response to their accusations is not," stated the report by psychologist Therese M. May and the Rev. Thomas J. Caroluzza, who is the top official for the diocese's eastern region, which includes Hampton Roads.
"While the accusers/victims know each other and have spoken to each other, we do not believe they have fabricated any of these accusations. They also indicate that there is a pattern of misbehavior here. This is not a one-time incident," the report said.
On Monday, Edward K. Carpenter, the Goochland County commonwealth's attorney, launched a criminal investigation of Leonard after receiving two allegations of sexual abuse by the priest at Vianney.
The prosecutor said his decision was not prompted by Sullivan, who asked him on Monday to investigate Leonard.
Sullivan's office, which has said it will not comment further on the case, declined requests earlier this week for information about Leonard's status at St. Michael parish.
Since reinstating Leonard as a pastor in June, Sullivan has repeatedly rejected the notion that the allegations naming the priest deserve a second look.
Sullivan said he considered the investigative team's report and results of psychological tests on Leonard, as well as his own research.
"My decision is final," he said at a news conference Aug. 1 in Williamsburg.
But the bishop said he changed his mind after Bruce Jeter of Norfolk told The Virginian-Pilot in a story published Sunday that he was drugged and sexually assaulted by Leonard while he was a Vianney student in 1974.
Jeter had told the diocese in 1996 that he had been abused by Leonard at Vianney. Leonard denied the allegation, and the diocese cleared the priest, saying the witnesses Jeter named didn't corroborate his story.
Jeter was not interviewed by Caroluzza or May during their investigation this spring.
James C. Roberts, Leonard's attorney, said Wednesday that he had neither seen the team's report nor spoken to May or Caroluzza.
Roberts said he has told Leonard not to comment publicly because of the criminal investigation.
The report includes Leonard's six-page rebuttal to the abuse allegations.
"It is my strongly held belief that my dealings with youth and their sexuality have been healthy and appropriate," stated Leonard, who was principal of Catholic High School in Norfolk for five years until 1992. "In the thirty plus years since these allegations are said to have occurred, I have been faithful to my vows and clear in my conscience."
According to the report, Leonard told the team that he would not enter inpatient therapy and would resign from the priesthood if such treatment were imposed on him.
The team recommended that "Fr. Leonard should be removed as pastor of St. Michael's Parish. After treatment, he may be able to be reassigned, but that judgment should not be made at this time."
Last week, Sullivan expelled a different priest for sexual abuse at St. John Vianney.
The Rev. Julian B. Goodman - pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Norfolk throughout the 1990s - had admitted he abused Vianney student James Kronzer from 1976 to 1978.
Goodman was part of a small faculty at Vianney that typically included four priests living at the school and several lay instructors who came to teach daily from their homes off campus.
The bishop had known about the abuse by Goodman since 1994, when Kronzer told the diocese about the incidents.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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