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Lexington Diocese Reports Sexual-Abuse Allegation

Priest in 1972 claim recently was reinstated

Jan 18, 2004 | AP

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington has notified law-enforcement officials about a sexual-abuse allegation last year against one of its priests, whom the diocese recently reinstated.

Dioceses are required to "report an allegation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities" under the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' mandatory national policy.

The Lexington diocese reinstated the Rev. William G. Poole, 68, last month as a priest in good standing. The diocese suspended him in 2002 after what it termed his "scandalous behavior" at a park.

The Lexington diocese, which covers the Lexington area and Eastern Kentucky, was part of the Covington diocese before 1988. The complaint claims the abuse occurred in 1972.

But neither the Lexington nor the Covington diocese informed law-enforcement officials about the allegation when they learned of it last year, spokesmen from both dioceses said.

On Thursday, Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer said his diocese was not responsible for reporting the allegation because of when the abuse allegedly occurred.

On Friday, Covington diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said his diocese is not at fault. "Father Poole is a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, and therefore it was and remains their responsibility to report him to the proper authorities," he said.

After the two dioceses consulted last week, the Lexington diocese reported the allegations. Lexington diocesan spokesman Tom Shaughnessy attributed the omission to "miscommunication."

An audit commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was released Jan.6 noted that the Lexington diocese previously had not reported sex-abuse allegations against former Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams or former Morehead pastor Bill Fedders.

The audit recommended that Lexington inform authorities about those cases, which came to light in lawsuits filed in 2002. The diocese quickly complied.

Poole was accused last year of abusing a 15-year-old boy while serving in Martin in Floyd County in 1972, a Lexington diocesan spokesman said.

The priest denies that he abused anyone.

Asked last week why the allegations were made, he said, "Money."

Fitzgerald defended the Covington diocese's handling of the matter and said an investigation was conducted.

Poole was suspended in September 2002 after diocesan officials learned that an undercover officer had spotted him masturbating in a public restroom. According to court records, Poole pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $100 plus court costs. In 1990, Poole was also arrested during a prostitution sting at the park, the diocese said.

Gainer ended Poole's suspension on Dec.24, 2003. Poole, who is retired from full-time ministry, now will be able to substitute in parishes when the regular priest is unavailable.

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