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Abuse Claim Puts Frankfort Priest On Leave

Sep 20, 2003 | AP

A priest at Frankfort's only Roman Catholic church was placed on a leave of absence yesterday pending an investigation of allegations that he sexually abused a teenager 20 years ago.

The Diocese of Lexington announced the action involving the Rev. Stephen Gallenstein, sacramental minister at Good Shepherd Parish.

Gallenstein, 55, is accused of sexually and psychologically abusing an unidentified woman for four years, starting when she was 13, according to documents filed in Boone Circuit Court Wednesday. The woman claims the priest then stalked her for 10 additional years.

Gallenstein, who was ordained in 1976, has worked at churches in Central and Eastern Kentucky. He was moved from a parish in Pikeville to the Frankfort parish earlier this year, said Tom Shaughnessy, spokesman for the Lexington Diocese.

"At the time it was a routine assignment," Shaughnessy said yesterday. "This is the only allegation against him that I know about."

A woman who answered the telephone at Good Shepherd said Gallenstein would not be available anytime soon.

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who placed Gallenstein on leave, is attending a Vatican orientation for newly ordained priests in Rome. Gainer will review the matter when he returns, Shaughnessy said.

The allegations are contained in a legal brief outlining examples of alleged abuse by priests and alleged cover-ups by church officials in the Diocese of Covington since 1953. The Lexington Diocese split from the Covington Diocese in 1988.

The brief was compiled after a Boone County judge ordered files from the Covington Diocese to be released to lawyers representing victims of alleged abuse. Attorneys had sought information on complaints of sexual abuse by priests, and the diocesan response as part of a potential class-action lawsuit.

The brief contains allegations against 18 unidentified priests. The names of the churches where some of the priests worked were included in the court papers.

The Covington Diocese did not immediately address the allegations in the court papers.

"We will be filing a response in due time," said Tim Fitzgerald, spokesman for the diocese.

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