Actions Defended by Priest

By Ziva Branstetter
Tulsa World [Oklahoma]
July 31, 2002

The Rev. Ken Lewis, at the center of allegations of improper behavior, meets with reporters Tuesday at the office of Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster. JOE IVERSON / Tulsa World

A priest who is accused of improper conduct with boys who attended a Tulsa church defended his actions Tuesday, saying he "never, never had any sexual contact with a child or young person."

The Rev. Kenneth Lewis said he was the victim of a "national guilt feeling in the Catholic Church" and that his affection for youths in his former church had been misunderstood. Lewis read a prepared statement during a press conference at the office of his attorney, Clark Brewster.

"I have never done anything which could be considered sexual contact or molestation," he said.

When allegations regarding Lewis were made in 1994, he was an associate pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Tulsa. The Tulsa Diocese sent him to a psychiatric facility for evaluation and later placed him in another Tulsa church.

Lewis was assigned to three other parishes before being assigned to St. John's Catholic Church in McAlester. He resigned from that position last month.

"The behavior which led to my therapy in 1994 ... involved the showing of physical affection toward young people in my parish. I loved these kids very much. I still do, and I always will," Lewis said.

"Until recently, I had always been praised and affirmed for my ability to reach out in this way toward others. Unfortunately, times have changed."

Lewis noted that one person who observed his behavior with young people thought "my caring had the appearance of being too personal."

"This was brought to my attention, thoroughly discussed and investigated. No wrongdoing was found in my ministry."

Lewis said he resigned "due to the reality of the world in which we live today."

"It breaks my heart to do it, for I very much loved my work, and I believe I was good at it."

Brewster said Lewis will "fully cooperate with authorities" who are investigating the allegations. When asked whether Lewis would ever return to the ministry, Brewster said that was "to be decided."

The attorney said one allegation involved Lewis hugging a grieving child whose grandmother had died.

Another instance occurred when Lewis was house sitting for a woman with a son who was about 13 years old.

"The boy was going to bed. ... The father (Lewis) was in the bedroom tucking him in. ... The boy suggested that they play a joke and act like they were sleeping," Brewster said.

Brewster said the woman walked in to discover Lewis and the youth in bed but that nothing inappropriate occurred.


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