Priest Cleared of Allegation

By Kevin Eigelbach
Cincinnati Post
February 19, 2005

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington has cleared its former No. 2 official of an allegation of sexual abuse.

The diocese had not decided as of Friday where the Rev. Gerald Reinersman would go back to work, spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said.

But an ad hoc committee that Bishop Roger Foys formed to investigate the charge found no reason why Reinersman couldn't return to active ministry.

In a statement published in the diocese newspaper, The Messenger, Reinersman said he was always confident a full and fair investigation would clear him.

"Thanks be to God, that day has finally come," he wrote.

He said he has remained faithful to his vow of celibacy throughout his 26 years as a priest.

Foys placed Reinersman on administrative leave in May, after a Lexington man accused him of repeated sexual abuse in 1979 at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary parish in Lexington.

The man said he was 7 or 8 at the time, and had repressed all memory of the abuse until several years ago. The diocese first planned to have the Archdiocese of Chicago review the accusation against Reinersman, since he had worked closely with the diocese's own sexual misconduct committee.

But in October, the coordinator of the archdiocese's review board said she couldn't get a meeting with the complainant.

So in November, Foys decided to form an independent committee of citizens he said had great integrity, independence and experience that suited them for the job. On it were Bill Burleigh, chairman of the E.W. Scripps Co., which owns The Post; Raymond Lape, a former Kenton County circuit judge and prosecutor; and Dr. Lief Nool, a clinical psychologist at Mercy Professional Services in Cincinnati, who specializes in the evaluation of clergy.

According to a statement printed in the Messenger, the ad hoc committee reviewed Reinersman's personnel file, his appointment calendar for 1979, his accuser's school records and other information.

The committee also reviewed an evaluation of Reinersman by the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma and consulted other authorities in repressed trauma.

Although the committee cleared Reinersman, it couldn't rule out that his accuser simply accused the wrong priest. For that reason, the committee recommended the diocese continue to make counseling available to the accuser.

Reinersman said that for the rest of his life, he would feel grateful to those who believed in him through his ordeal.

"I have found great comfort in the Scriptures, prayer and especially in the Holy Eucharist," he wrote. "I have discovered new depths of faith, strength, patience, empathy and courage, which I hope can be used for the spiritual well-being of others as I begin to return to the priestly ministry I love."

He became vicar general of the diocese in March 2000. Until the allegation was made against him and he was suspended, Reinersman was scheduled to step down from that post and become a parish priest again.

He was ordained in 1979 and did parish work and taught high school earlier in his career.


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