Former Good Shepherd Priest Pleads Guilty in Sex Abuse Case

By Kevin Wheatley
The State Journal
March 19, 2010

Rev. Joseph Muench, the former associate priest at Good Shepherd Church who was indicted on sexual abuse charges Oct. 21, has pleaded guilty to amended charges in his sexual abuse case.

Muench, 54, of Lexington, pleaded guilty Thursday to amended charges of first-degree unlawful imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit sexual abuse in the first degree, his plea agreement says.

While at Good Shepherd, Muench sexually abused one victim by force between July 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 1981, and another by force between July 1, 1984, and Dec. 31, 1985, his indictment says.

One victim was older than 18 at the time and the other was 16. Their names won’t be released, Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland said.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate accepted the plea in his chambers, Cleveland said.

Cleveland wanted to protect the identity of the victims and didn’t want to “reopen any old wounds” with the victims during a trial.

“Given all those considerations, we’ve decided to plead the case out,” Cleveland said.

The commonwealth recommends two years and will take no position on probation, Muench’s plea agreement says.

As part of his plea agreement, Muench will never “be employed or act in a position of trust or authority with respect to any minor.”

Wingate will sentence Muench May 21, Cleveland said.

The State Journal reported in July that the Catholic Diocese of Lexington’s Bishop Ronald W. Gainer suspended Muench July 13 after investigating the alleged sexual misconduct. He was the pastor at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary in Lexington at the time.

Attorney B. Keith Saksefski of Louisville, representing the three men in the original allegations, said in a letter to the diocese that the sexual abuses happened while Muench was an associate pastor at Good Shepherd between 1984 and 1986.

Calls to Saksefski were not returned.

As called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the review board advises the bishop when allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual abuse are brought against a priest.

“Meeting July 8, the review board determined that the preliminary investigation of the allegations possessed a semblance of truth, warranting the suspension of ministry and further investigation,” a statement from the diocese in July said.

Cleveland told The State Journal Friday he isn’t sure how the Catholic Diocese of Lexington will handle Muench now that the criminal case is nearing resolution.

“The Catholic Church would not return my phone calls in respect to that,” Cleveland said. “I was never, ever able to talk to anybody with the Catholic Church above the rank of deacon.

“I called the bishop on multiple occasions, but he never took my calls, nor did he return my calls.”

One of the victims has sued the Catholic Diocese of Covington and Bishop Roger J. Foys for not reporting Muench’s sexual abuse allegations to authorities and for creating an atmosphere that encouraged Muench’s alleged sexual abuse by turning a blind eye to reported incidents.

The victim says he suffers from depression, anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional and psychological disorders as a result Muench’s alleged sexual abuse, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 13.

The case is moving through Franklin Circuit Court.


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