Lexington Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse

By Tom Loftus
April 8, 1993

An 86-year-old Catholic priest was charged yesterday with two counts of sexual abuse and 13 counts of indecent or immoral practices with others for behavior that allegedly occurred between 1962 and 1978 at his former parish in Lexington.

The Rev. Leonard B. Nienaber, who has retired as a pastor but is still a practicing priest, was arrested at his Lexington home at 11:15 a.m. yesterday by Kentucky State Police.

Nienaber was pastor of Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Church between 1963 and 1979. According to a state police news release, the charges against him involve nine people who were between the ages of 4 and 16 when the incidents allegedly occurred in the church, elementary school and rectory.

Nienaber was taken to the Fayette County Detention Center, where he was released after he posted a $10,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. today in Fayette District Court.

He declined to comment when reached by telephone at his home.

State police said they were contacted on March 17 by someone who gave "an account of being a sexual-abuse victim" and provided a list of other possible victims.

A detective interviewed others on the list and eventually found a total of nine people who said they had been sexually abused by Nienaber, according to the news release.

Trooper Glenn Walton, a state police spokesman, said both males and females allegedly were victims. He said he did not know complete details of the incidents told to the detective, or why the initial complainant had come forward now -- at least 15 years after the last purported incident involving any of the alleged victims.

The sexual-abuse counts are felonies; the 13 counts of indecent or immoral acts are misdemeanors, Walton said.

Police are still investigating, and additional charges are possible, he said.

The Rev. Robert Nieberding, the current pastor of Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Church, said he was shocked to learn of the charges yesterday.

Nieberding, who described himself as a friend of Nienaber's since 1968, said: "I've never had any clue of anything like this. He is a very caring and loving person. And I would like to point out these are only accusations."

Nieberding said he was mystified that the accusations would surface after so many years. He said he learned of the investigation about a week ago from two parishioners who had been asked about Nienaber by state police. The two knew nothing about any indecent conduct by Nienaber, Nieberding said.


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