These priests, credibly accused of child sexual abuse, still live quietly in the Tri-State
By Craig Cheatham, Paula Christian And Dan Monk
November 18, 2019
|The Rev. Jack Goeke from a 1994 report on WCPO|
|Robert Steinberg was lead trial counsel in the 2003 class-action lawsuit against the Diocese of Covington.|
|Rev. Joseph Muench, from a 2010 report on WLEX-TV in Lexington|
|Attorney Konrad Kircher estimates he advised more than 150 victims of clergy sexual abuse in his career.|
The Diocese of Covington suspended the Rev. Jack Goeke from ministry in 1994 after two women accused him of sexually abusing them while they were as young as 11.
More than two decades later, local Catholic Church and community leaders participated in a celebration to honor Goeke.
A Facebook photo from June 2018 shows a smiling Goeke at a groundbreaking ceremony for a legacy house honoring his quarter-century of work at Housing Opportunities for Northern Kentucky, a nonprofit that renovates and builds homes for low-income families.
At the event, Goeke posed for photos with the Rev. Joseph Gallenstein, who is on the organization’s board of directors and emceed a dinner honoring Goeke.
"I would be shocked if the diocese was promoting Goeke as a reputable person,” said attorney Robert Steinberg, who won a $90.5 million settlement from the Diocese of Covington that was finalized in 2009.
A decade later, Thomas Doyle, a former attorney in the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. who consulted on Steinberg’s case, still remembers Goeke’s name from the 17,000 abuse complaints attorneys discovered were made against priests and dicoese employees over the years.
"That’s a good piece of evidence that they don’t get it. They will minimize the sexual abuse,” said Doyle who authored a 1985 report warning of a national priest abuse scandal.
The WCPO I-Team used national Catholic directories to compile a list of 92 priests and brothers, including Goeke, who were accused of sexual abuse by the Vatican, prosecutors or civil litigation since 1959 who lived in the Tri-State at some point.
While most of those priests and brothers on WCPO’s list are deceased, 37 former and current accused priests are still living. Of those, at least a dozen are living quietly in the Tri-State area, including Goeke.
The Official Catholic Directory lists Goeke as being on administrative leave from 1997 to 2002. He is not listed after that, so the public has no way of knowing about Goeke’s status with the church since 2002.
Goeke, who lives at St. Charles Community, a Catholic retirement center in Kenton County, did not respond to messages left with St. Charles staff.
Gallenstein, the priest who emceed the event for Goeke, did not respond to several emails and a phone message.
“They’re celebrating the good that he’s done, but they’re dismissing the harm that’s been done to victims,” Doyle said.
The I-Team also discovered a former Frankfort church associate pastor -- who spent time in jail for attempted sexual abuse of boys -- is living in Independence.
The Diocese of Lexington placed the Rev. Joseph Muench on administrative leave in 2009 after allegations of sexual misconduct. He pleaded no contest in 2010 to unlawful imprisonment and attempted sexual abuse of teenage boys in the 1980s. A judge sentenced him to a year in jail.
Muench declined the I-Team’s request for an interview when a reporter visited his condominium in Independence. He was not listed in the Official Catholic Directory after 2010.
“That’s the worst possible scenario. I’ll bet the families living next to him have no idea,” said David Clohessy, former director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, which is the nation's largest support group for clergy molestation victims.
Clohessy said he was stunned to learn the Diocese of Covington had not named Muench as a credibly accused priest.
The Diocese of Covington is one of 10 of the 177 dioceses and archdioceses in the nation which does not publish a list of credibly accused priests and has not announced its intent to do so, according to an Associated Press investigation.
Which means the public has no way of knowing the identity of these men.
The Diocese of Covington did not respond to eight requests for an interview or information, made by phone and email, from WCPO over several weeks.
Then last week, days away from the release of this I-Team series, a spokeswoman for the diocese released a statement that an independent review of priest files dating back to 1950 was underway by two former FBI agents.
Her statement did not provide a timetable or say if a list of credibly accused priests would be released. But she wrote that a report would be made public once the review is finished.
“Its very important that these lists be made public. Now it’s embarrassing to the diocese, well that’s too bad,” Steinberg said. “They should have done something about it a long time ago.”
Doyle, who authored a 1985 report warning of a national priest abuse scandal and consulted with Steinberg on his class-action lawsuit, agreed.
“The question that I can’t answer in an acceptable way is … why the bishops are so resistant to publishing the names of the priests that they know have done this,” Doyle said.
Across the river the Archdiocese of Cincinnati does publish on its website a list of credibly accused priests which it defines as: based upon investigation and a review of the available facts and circumstances, is more likely than not to be true.
The archdiocese listed 33 credibly accused priests on its website -- which is 59 fewer than the 92 accused priests and brothers that WCPO discovered and compiled for its list.
“Those lists are published unilaterally. They don’t ask for victim organization input. They don’t ask for input from prosecutors or anyone else,” said attorney Konrad Kircher, who has represented 90 abuse survivors in lawsuits against the Catholic Church. “They just come up with their own lists and publish what they want to publish. There’s no accountability for those lists.”
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati declined an interview but did provide written responses to some questions, including a statement about who it names on its list.
“This is an ongoing process that we are working through as we review our files and as additional religious orders release lists,” spokeswoman Jennifer Schack wrote in a partial statement.
WCPO tracked the whereabouts of several current and former priests who the archdiocese lists on its website as being credibly accused of sexual abuse: G.R. Keith Albrecht, Thomas Kuhn and George Cooley.
Cooley, a former associate pastor at a Mount Washington church, spent three months in jail after he pleaded guilty in 1991 to molesting four boys.
A judge later convicted him on separate charges for stalking a victim and soliciting sex from a police officer posing as a male prostitute. The Vatican removed him from priesthood in 1998.
Lawsuits allege Cooley molested at least a dozen boys, including one 14-year-old boy who accused Cooley of providing him with alcohol and encouraging him to abuse it.
Cooley, who declined an interview with WCPO, now lives near Sharonville and works as a personal bartender for private parties, receptions and office celebrations. His LinkedIn profile, which makes no mention of his 20 years in the priesthood, says he enjoys “meeting people and celebrating.”
“It is very difficult to track where these men go after they leave, especially if they are laicized or dismissed from the priesthood,” Doyle said. “You don’t know where they are because the church washes their hands of all responsibility.”
Thomas Kuhn, a former Elder High School principal who the Vatican removed from priesthood in 2014 over allegations of inappropriate contact with students, owns a five-bedroom home in Oak Hills with former Archdiocese of Cincinnati priest personnel director the Rev. Philip Seher, according to Hamilton County auditor records.
Seher declined an interview, but in an email he cautioned WCPO about how it referred to Kuhn in stories.
“There is a difference from child abuse and child sex abuse. Beer to under-aged or a minor is child abuse by definition. Fr. Tom Kuhn was not charged with sex abuse. Be careful not to confuse them,” Seher wrote.
Kuhn was convicted of providing alcohol to minors and engaging in public indecency at his home in suburban Dayton in 2004, after prosecutors said he masturbated in front of a minor.
Kuhn did not respond to a phone message or a business card left on the front door of his home.
Since the Vatican removed Kuhn from priesthood, as it did with Cooley and Albrecht, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is under no obligation to monitor any of them.
“You can play with words all you want the fact is this guy - this ex-priest Kuhn - did some horrific stuff in front of children,” Doyle said. “That can’t be dismissed. Don’t make it worse by minimizing what he did.”
Albrecht, who the Vatican removed in 2005 over child sexual assault accusations, also did not list the priesthood on his LinkedIn page, instead referring to his career from 1977 to 2013 as a “Friendship Ambassador.”
A public records search showed Albrecht’s most current address is a home in Carthage next door to a Catholic Church and Hispanic ministry center. Before his death on November 10, WCPO attempted to contact Albrecht with a phone message, a Facebook message, knocking on his door and and sending emails to 14 accounts associated with his name. He did not respond.
“They have no reporting requirements,” Kircher said. “They can go off and form a new life.”