Bishop Steps Down After Abuse Accusation

Associated Press/May 23, 2002

Lexington, Ky. -- The Roman Catholic bishop of Lexington, J. Kendrick Williams, stepped down from pastoral duties today while the church investigates accusations that he molested an altar boy 21 years ago.

"I am stunned and saddened by this accusation," Bishop Williams said. "Let me state this simply: the allegations are false."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lexington, Tom Shaughnessy, said neither Bishop Williams nor the diocese would have any further comment on the case.

The former altar boy, James W. Bennett, 33, said he was molested when he was 12, when the bishop was a priest in the Louisville archdiocese.

"I quit going to the church after it happened," Mr. Bennett said. "All the hush-hush is going to end. This is widespread."

Bishop Williams helped to enact a stringent policy against sexual abuse in the Lexington diocese after a priest pleaded guilty to sex abuse charges in 1994 for an incident that dated to the late 1960's.

The policy requires the diocese to report to the authorities anyone suspected of child abuse, and for anyone facing such an accusation to be placed on leave until the matter is resolved.

Since April 19, 88 lawsuits have been filed saying that the Archdiocese of Louisville ignored abuse complaints against priests.

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