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Only a bishop could say it

By Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. ( articles - email ) | Jan 16, 2004

As they say, the devil is in the details. The policy adopted by the US bishops in Dallas in 2002 may look good on paper, but how it's implemented is the tricky part. Case in point: One Kentucky diocese says a priest had a credible allegation against, paid out a settlement, and suspended him. But another Kentucky diocese says the allegation wasn't credible and reinstates him. Fr. William Poole pled guilty in 2001 to playing with himself in a public restroom. In 1990 he was arrested in a prostitution sting and paid a fine. Those incidents are not in dispute.

But Poole was also accused of abusing a 15-year-old boy in 1972 when what is now the Diocese of Lexington was part of the Diocese of Covington. He denied the claim. The diocese conducted separate investigations and Covington decided the claim was credible. Lexington decided it wasn't. Neither reported it to police, claiming the other diocese was responsible.

Meanwhile Poole, who we remember pled guilty to two sex-related offenses, has been reinstated. He won't be permanently assigned to a parish but will fill in at parishes for sick leaves and vacations.

[Lexington Bishop Robert] Gainer said he believes Poole won't commit any more sex-related offenses.

"Father Poole is receiving professional help, and I've had two serious conversations with him about the obligations regarding his lifestyle, and I do trust that he will make every effort to live a life in accord with his priestly duties," Gainer said.

What's missing from the bishop's comments? Any mention of moral duty, any hint of a spiritual problem, any idea of sin. The statement is so bland, he could be referring to a drinking problem, financial problems, or just about anything under the sun. What makes the bishop's comments different from what we would hear from the CEO of some company?

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