Former Des Moines priest, accused of sex abuse in past, faces another allegation

September 28, 2018

[with video]

The Diocese of Des Moines is investigating an allegation of decades-old sexual abuse of a minor against one of its priests who retired in 2008.

According to a news release, Bishop Richard Pates immediately referred the complaint made Sept. 6 against Father Leonard Kenkel to local law enforcement authorities where the alleged abuse happened. The allegation is beyond the statute of limitations.

Pates apologized to the victim, who asked for anonymity.

“It has always been a top priority for me that we address all allegations of sexual abuse with utmost transparency, consistency and accountability outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” Pates said in a statement.

“The diocese continues to work diligently to ensure a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools,” he said.

Kenkel, who was ordained a priest in 1960 and taught at Dowling Catholic High School for 27 years, retired in 2008. The diocese said there were two allegations of decades-old abuse made in 2003 and 2005 against him, but there was “insufficient evidence to conclude sexual abuse.”

The Allegation Review Committee recommended that Kenkel meet with a professional to “help him better understand personal space and the recognition of appropriate boundaries for physical contact, which he did.”

The diocese obtained an investigator and will consult with the diocesan Allegation Review Committee to determine future steps.

Following diocesan policy, Bishop suspends a priest from public ministry facing an allegation until law enforcement and the diocesan Allegation Review Committee -- which is comprised of a police chief, a judge a lawyer, a counselor, a retired teacher, a priest and a deacon -- completes its investigations.

However, in this case, Kenkel is retired and in a nursing facility and not able to minister. The bishop has suspended Kenkel's priestly faculties so he cannot engage in public ministry.

The diocese encourages anyone with allegations of abuse by clergy to contact their local police department or diocesan Victim Assistance Advocate Sam Porter at, or call 515-286-2015.


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