Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington Statement on Abuse File Review

Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington
Statement on Abuse File Review
July 31, 2020

The Diocese of Covington today is releasing the names of priests, religious, deacons and lay employees who have served in our Diocese against whom one or more allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been substantiated.

The list is the product of a comprehensive and independent review of thousands of diocesan records dating back to 1950. Two former FBI agents were given free rein to review all diocesan records, including Chancery files, archival files, priest personnel files, and Safe Environment files. The former FBI agents have a combined 50 years of investigative experience.

In October, 2019, Bishop Roger Foys and the Diocesan Review Board initiated the review as a way to continue to assure the people of the Diocese of Covington, as well as our priests and other Diocesan personnel, that the Diocese has, as far as is humanly possible, addressed the scourge of sexual abuse of minors by its priests, religious and lay employees.

Inclusion on this list does not necessarily indicate that an accused priest, religious, deacon or lay employee has been found guilty of a crime or liable for any civil claim. The definition of “substantiated allegation” that guided the file review is as follows:

An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is deemed substantiated when there is probable cause for believing the claim is true. The following may be considered as evidence of probable cause:

1) admission of guilt by the accused;
2) guilty finding rendered by a court;
3) finding rendered by an investigative process shows cause for believing the allegation is true on an objective basis;
4) the accused, when presented with the allegation and afforded a reasonable opportunity to respond, declined to address the allegation; or
5) the Special Masters appointed by the Court in the class action litigation against the Diocese made a monetary award from the class settlement fund based on a sworn claim form alleging one or more incidents of sexual abuse of a minor by the accused, and any other evidence that was submitted on behalf of the claimant.

The review process that has culminated in this list is part of the Diocese’s ongoing commitment to create a Safe Environment and to ensure that all allegations of child sexual abuse by priests, religious and lay employees over the last 70 years have been properly identified and reported. The review process is the natural outgrowth of two significant developments that have transpired during the last eighteen (18) years: significant reforms in the U.S. Catholic Church beginning in 2002 and the Diocese’s involvement in class action litigation from 2003-2009.

U.S. Church Reforms (2002)

In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the “Dallas Charter”)[1] The Dallas Charter set forth reforms for U.S. dioceses to follow in response to the sexual abuse crisis. The reforms fall under four categories:

1. Promote healing and reconciliation with victims/survivors of sexual abuse of minors.
2. Ensure an effective response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
3. Ensure accountability of the response to sexual abuse of minors.
4. Protect the faithful in the future.

The Diocese acted promptly to implement the Dallas Charter and compliance with the Charter remains a priority. Some highlights follow.

To promote healing and reconciliation, Bishop Foys has met individually with over 170 survivors since 2002, and he will meet with any survivors requesting a meeting.

In addition, the Diocese has established a Victim Assistance Coordinator to assist with the immediate pastoral care of survivors. The Diocese has established a Diocesan Review Board (“DRB”), which is comprised of mostly lay people not in the employ of the Diocese. The DRB advises the Bishop “in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of a cleric’s suitability for ministry.” (Dallas Charter, Art. 2). The DRB meets regularly.

Since 2002, in response to each and every complaint of sexual abuse of a minor received, the Diocese has offered paid professional counseling to the individual making the complaint. These offers of counseling have been made for cases of abuse whenever alleged to have occurred and regardless of whether the complaint has been substantiated.

To ensure an effective response, upon receiving an allegation of minor sexual abuse, the Diocese has immediately reported the allegation to appropriate civil authorities (typically the Commonwealth Attorney in the county in which the abuse is alleged to have occurred). Again, such reporting has been undertaken even for allegations of abuse in the distant past and regardless of whether the allegation has been substantiated.

Consistent with the Dallas Charter, when an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been received, a preliminary investigation is conducted promptly and objectively. If the complaint involves an active priest, precautionary measures are implemented (e.g., withdrawal of the accused from ministry or restricting residence), pending the outcome of the investigation.

Most importantly, a policy of zero tolerance is in effect. “[F]or even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor — whenever it occurred — which is admitted or established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon is to be permanently removed from ministry [“faculties removed”] and, if warranted, dismissed from the clerical state [“laicized”].” (Dallas Charter, Art. 5).

To ensure accountability, the Diocese submits to regular audits to ensure compliance with the Dallas Charter. These audits are conducted by an outside team of auditors at the direction of the National Review Board, which was established in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Every year, the Diocese submits a completed audit questionnaire to the auditors, and an audit team periodically visits the Diocese for an intensive on-site audit. Since 2002, the Diocese has submitted to nine (9) on-site audits. Every audit has demonstrated the Diocese’s continued compliance with the Dallas Charter.

To protect the faithful, the Diocese has implemented mandatory background checks for all priests, deacons, staff and volunteers who work with children. Safe Environment policies, protocols and a code of conduct have been developed and are regularly updated.[2]

The Diocese’s Safe Environment Office – through the VIRTUS program – performs training and background checks of all priests, deacons, seminarians, employees and volunteers working in the Curia, parishes, schools and Catholic organizations. From 2003 to the present, 33,145 persons have completed the VIRTUS program. Additionally, children in Catholic schools and parish schools of religion are trained on how to identify and report inappropriate behavior by adults.

Most recently, the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service has been established to receive reports of sexual abuse and related misconduct by bishops and to relay those reports to proper Church authorities.[3] A link to the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service is available on the diocesan Safe Environment web page.

The Class Action (2003-2009)

In 2003, a lawsuit brought on behalf of all persons who had been sexually abused as a minor by a priest, religious, deacon or lay employee of the Diocese of Covington was certified by the Boone County Circuit Court as a class action. The class action was administered by the Court and scrutinized in a very public process.

In January 2006, after notice and a public hearing to determine whether a proposed settlement reached on behalf of the Class was “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” the settlement received final approval from the Court. The class settlement was open to anyone who had been sexually abused as a minor by a priest, religious or lay employee of the Diocese or any Diocesan parish or institution. For months following final approval of the settlement, media outlets and newspapers across the country, including the diocesan newspaper (the Messenger), published notice of the class settlement and instructions on what abuse victims needed to do to file a claim for compensation from the class settlement fund.

Over a period of three and a half years, all claims were reviewed by court-appointed Special Masters and awards totaling $81,231,500 were made from the Class Settlement Fund. The Special Masters made awards to claimants when they determined that a claim was supported by sufficient credible evidence to conclude that the abuse more likely than not occurred. Claimants were required to submit a sworn claim form, but not otherwise required to substantiate their claims. Awards were made in cases involving unknown priests and unnamed nuns and in cases where the only supporting evidence was the claimant’s sworn claim form.

On May 21, 2009, the court-appointed Settlement Master, retired federal district judge Thomas Lambros, filed a report with the Kentucky Attorney General (the “Lambros Report”). The Lambros Report consisted of an executive summary of the “credible incidents of sexual abuse” that were deemed established as to each abuser. The Kentucky Court of Appeals had earlier ruled that the Lambros Report need not include “deceased priests or employees of the Diocese.” Thus, the Lambros Report detailed abuse by individuals then living, and it was submitted to the Attorney General “for distribution to the appropriate commonwealth attorneys.”[4]

The Settlement Master filed his final report to the Court on May 27, 2009. The report noted that 400 claims had been processed. One additional claim was received and processed by the Special Masters after the final report was submitted, in accordance with the procedures approved by the Court.

On May 28, 2009, after finding that “the Diocese of Covington and Bishop Foys have fulfilled all of their obligations under their settlement agreement with the Doe Class and this Court’s orders regarding the class settlement and its administration,” the Court entered a final order of dismissal.

Compilation of the List

The file reviewers experienced varying degrees of difficulty in determining whether an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been substantiated. Some abusers had multiple victims and claims against them were relatively easy to substantiate. Other allegations were much more difficult to reliably assess, due to the passage of time, conflicting evidence, lack of evidence, absence of other allegations or claims against the accused, or one or more significant limiting factors.

Over the years, the Diocese has received some complaints of sexual abuse of minors that fall into the latter category. The Special Masters in the class action denied 148 claims (of the 400 filed) as not sufficiently credible to support an award or as outside the scope of the class.[5] Some claims the Special Masters considered credible enough to merit a monetary award were not deemed substantiated.

Current Diocesan Procedures

Anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct by a cleric, employee, religious or volunteer of the Diocese of Covington is asked to contact Ms. Margaret Schack, Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (859) 392-1515. Professional assistance and pastoral support will be provided with confidentiality and respect. The Victim Assistance Coordinator is required to report allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities. A victim may report allegations of sexual abuse directly to civil authorities as follows.

Reporting CURRENT abuse of MINORS or VULNERABLE ADULTS to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Division of Protection and Permanency, (877) 597-2331.

Boone County (859) 371-8832 Harrison County (859) 234-3884
Bracken County (606) 735-2195 Kenton County (859) 292-6340
Campbell County (859) 292-6733 Lewis County (606) 796-2981
Carroll County (502) 732-6681 Mason County (606) 564-6818
Fleming County (606) 845-2381 Owen County (502) 484-3937
Gallatin County (859) 567-7381 Pendleton County (859) 654-3381
Grant County (859) 824-4471 Robertson County (859) 724-5413

Reporting ADULTS who were abused as MINORS to the
Commonwealth Attorney.

Boone County (859) 586-1723 Harrison County (859) 235-0387
Bracken County (606) 564-4304 Kenton County (859) 292-6580
Campbell County (859) 292-6490 Lewis County (606) 473-7978
Carroll County (502) 732-6688 Mason County (606) 564-4304
Fleming County (606) 564-4304 Owen County (502) 732-6688
Gallatin County (859) 586-1723 Pendleton County (859) 235-0387
Grant County (859) 732-6688 Robertson County (859) 235-0387

It is preferable that you call the county in which the abuse allegedly occurred.

Additional resources:

Kentucky Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-752-6200
National Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-422-4453
Indiana Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-800-5556
Kentucky Sex Offender Registry
http://kspsor.state.ky.us/
Ohio Child Abuse Hotline
1-855-642-4453

1 The Dallas Charter was updated in 2005, 2011 and 2018. A copy may be found at www.usccb.org
2 The Diocese’s booklet entitled “Creating a Safe Environment, Policies and Procedures for Addressing Sexual Misconduct” may be found at www.covdio.org.
3 More information can be found at ReportBishopAbuse.org.
4 Since May 2009, the Diocese has received no claims of present day sexual abuse against a minor by a priest.
5 The class action process provided that a claimant could appeal the Special Masters’ decision to an Appeal Master and, further, to the Circuit Court.

Instructional Aide – Blessed Sacrament

Blessed Sacrament School is hiring at part-time instructional aide for the 2020-2021 school year. Responsibilities include assisting the reading specialist with instruction, working as a 1st grade/Jr. High instructional aide, and monitoring recess. The days and hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 7:15 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Experience with elementary-aged children is preferred and candidates must be or be willing to become Virtus trained. This is an hourly position.  Interested applicants need to email Principal Dan Steffen at [email protected].

Childcare Teachers – St. Joseph Academy

St. Joseph Academy located in Walton, Kentucky is looking to hire two childcare teachers to care for children ages 2 years-12 years. You will create your own lesson plans and execute them, supervise the children in daily activities, document their progress and assist them with their needs.  You must have a high school diploma, be at least 18 years old, have a clean background check, and be available 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.  The position could be full time or part time.  If you are interested please send your letter and resume to Rhonda O’Leary at [email protected].

Diocese of Covington releases requirements, guidelines for opening of schools

Messenger Staff Report

After months of intense discernment and discussion the Diocese of Covington Department of Catholic Schools has released information on how the nine Catholic high schools and 30 elementary schools and pre-schools will open next month. The 13-page document entitled “COVID-19 Return to School Requirements” was e-mailed to all priests and principals July 23 and is available online here.

The document contains requirements that must be implemented and guidelines that share best practices on ways to implement the requirements. Requirements include a daily health self-assessment of each employee, teacher and student prior to coming to school, temperature checks upon arrival, the wearing of face coverings in common areas, marking safe social distance of six feet in hallways and classrooms and increased hygiene and sanitization. Guidelines include staggering lunches and recesses to accommodate social distancing and extending dismissal to avoid students and parents congregating at the end of the day.

“We share the common value of educating our students in a safe and faith-filled community,” said Mike Clines, superintendent of schools. “I am confident that by working together we will be able to achieve that goal even during this health crisis. Discipline and cooperation are hallmarks of a Catholic school community. With the grace of God, I am confident that our school communities will come together to be committed guardians of each other by implementing these requirements in an atmosphere of discipline, cooperation and Christian love.”

A sub-committee led by Mr. Clines and Kendra McGuire, associate superintendent of Catholic Schools, and made up of priests, Curia members, principals, medical doctors and attorneys helped to create the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements document. The document is based on the most up-to-date information from various sources including, but not limited to, the Kentucky Department of Health, the Kentucky Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control, along with the guidance of the Diocesan Coronavirus Taskforce.

“I thank everyone who has helped develop the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements,” said Mrs. McGuire. “As an administrator and parent I share the concerns of many of our families. I am grateful that our school families have chosen to entrust their child’s academic and spiritual education to our Catholic school system and look forward to a safe and blessed school year.”

As new information is received from health and government officials, there may be updates to these regulations that will be communicated following a review from the task force.

Start of schools delayed until August 17

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Covington are postponing the start of in-person instruction by one week. Due to increasing cases of COVID-19, Governor Andy Beshear requested, July 27, that all Kentucky schools delay the start of in-person instruction until, on or after August 17. Catholic schools in the diocese were scheduled to open the week of August 10.

“We are going to honor Governor Beshear’s recommendation and are postponing the school start dates by one week,” said Mike Clines, superintendent of Catholic schools. “Our number one priority is the health and education of our students. Our principals, faculties and staffs have been working hard and are prepared to welcome students back in the classroom. I invite everyone to join us in making the health and education of our children a priority by following the best practices that have been identified to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.”

Parish Kitchen opens for lunch at new location

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The Parish Kitchen, now operated on Madison Ave., a mile south of its former Pike Street location, opened for lunch July 20. It’s still serving to-go meals 11:30 a.m. –1:30 p.m. daily, this week for the first time at the new site. About 150 guests received meals July 20, with many saying it’s now a closer walk from where they live.

“I like it, it’s a lot better than up there,” said one guest. “It seems a lot bigger. It’s very nice.”

Manager Maria Meyer said the first week is off to a great start, thanks to the support of staff and volunteers and cooperation from the guests. “We are happy to see old familiar faces from the Pike Street location as well as many new faces,” she said. “We look forward to the day when we can invite our guests inside our warm welcoming dining room.”

Another guest, Linda, said the new location gave her an opportunity to revisit the street where she used to live 25 years ago. “I think it’s wonderful. I believe what you folks are doing for folks like us is awesome. It’s wonderful that you’re taking your time to take care of our needs and I believe in that.”

“The new location will provide us ample space to continue Parish Kitchen’s ministry 46 years in the making,” said Ms. Meyer. “We are grateful for the support of the community, our volunteers and donors for making our dream a reality.”

Preschool Teaching Assistants – St. Joseph, Camp Springs

St. Joseph Pre-K in Camp Springs is looking for energetic and loving people who would like to join our staff as a part-time Teacher’s Aide.  If interested, please email Lisa at [email protected].

Aftercare Teachers – St. Cecilia

St.Cecilia Elementary School in Independence is seeking applications for part time afterschool program teachers for the 2020-2021 school year. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: assistance with homework, planning and implementation of program activities, and actively supervising and engaging children ages kindergarten through eighth grade. Hours are from 2:00-6:00 five days a week. Some flexibility with scheduling.  To apply please submit a resume and references to Director Kim Murphy at [email protected].

Middle School Social Studies Teacher – Holy Cross Elementary

Holy Cross Elementary School is seeking a part-time middle school Social Studies teacher for the 2020-2021 school year. We are looking for a teacher certified in middle grades Social Studies with experience in curriculum implementation, lesson planning and classroom management. The successful candidate will demonstrate creative problem solving, flexibility, self-motivation and leadership..  The position is part-time (morning hours) beginning in August 2020. Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume to Principal Lisa Timmerding @ [email protected]

Who is my neighbor? — A lesson from ‘The Twilight Zone’

By David Cooley.

I continue to be amazed by our divided nation. A wise priest once told me that you can always see where the devil is hard at work because of all the anxiety and division he causes. The more I pay attention the more this seems increasingly obvious. Another thing I remember from when I was young, is that the devil is the father of lies and those who care not for the truth are all too willing to participate in his evil schemes. In contrast, some signs of Christ’s work in the world are truth, unity, peace and understanding. Interesting questions to ponder each day: what seems to be more prominent in our country and in our world — division or unity? And, what role do I play in all of this?

It seems like no one can agree on anything anymore, even some basic concepts like the existence of good and evil, the fact that some things are simply right and some things are simply wrong, and the dignity and value of every single human life. It would also be nice if we could at least agree that people have a right to know what’s going on in the world without being constantly manipulated by hidden agendas. It saddens me when I see friends turn on each other because they have a difference of opinion on an issue and all the roads that lead to a civilized and reasonable conversation are closed until further notice. It seems like, in the year 2020, the one thing we have all been united in, so far at least, is defeat.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is “The Twilight Zone.” It’s an old show (from the late 1950s, early 60s), but, in my humble opinion, there was something about the quality of the program and the atmosphere that will never be matched. I’m sure part of it is nostalgia — I can remember staying up late to watch the old reruns, while I was sure everyone else in the house and in the neighborhood was sleeping. I can still hear the cool, confident voice of the host, Rod Serling, as he appeared in stark black-and-white and prepared me for another ride of twist-and-turns with an unnerving lesson that “things aren’t always as they appear.” Aside from my Catholic faith, there is probably nothing that has had a larger impact on how I see the world than that show. There are many great episodes from that other dimension that are more than worthy for reflection, but one that I come back to on almost an annual basis is a disturbing little tale called “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

At the close of the episode, aliens observe from a safe distance as a small, lovely town full of everyday people descends into chaos. The intelligent beings from somewhere else have discovered that there is no need to attack and invade the people of earth. Instead they pick one town at a time, cut off its power, scare the people a little with visual tricks, and leave them alone with each other and their increasing paranoia. In a short time, panic sets in and the citizens turn on one another, searching for scapegoats to blame and kill. As it turns out, the monsters of the title are not the visitors from another planet, but the people that already lived together on Maple Street. Those that were supposed to be neighbors.

It’s chilling sometimes, in our own dimension, how easily neighbor can be turned against neighbor. Misunderstandings and fear nurtured by irrationality can quickly turn into harsh words, angry mobs and violence. Perhaps the decision to be a neighbor or a monster is one that we make just about every day. It’s not always about the big decisions; more often than not it’s probably in the little choices we make — do we let our emotions get the best of us? Do we put our needs, wants and safety before others? Do we put others down and gossip to make ourselves feel better? Do we treat people differently based on their race or social status? How do we act when we are on the internet? And so on.

While it was written decades ago, this episode from the very first season of The Twilight Zone — and virtually every episode of its five-year run — is eerily relevant for us today. On the other hand, if there was ever a time that we needed aliens to intervene in order to get us to turn on each other, that time is long past. In our world of social distancing and social media, it seems like we are always looking for the next fight. We tend to see those who are different than us and those that disagree with us not as potential friends with whom we can talk things out, but as something completely other. There is a great danger in living this way; and no one on either side of the political spectrum is immune to it. Just like with everything else, we have to begin by taking a good, hard look at ourselves.

I’ll leave you with these chilling words said by Rod Serling — a brilliant, Jewish man, by the way — at the end of that classic episode:

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

Bishop praises priests and people as he reflects on episcopacy

Laura Keener, Editor.

On July 27, Bishop Roger Foys will celebrate his 75th birthday and, as required by Canon law, submit his resignation to the Holy Father. As the date approaches, the Messenger sat down with Bishop Foys to talk about the process of getting a new bishop, to review his accomplishments and to share his thoughts about his episcopacy and the people of the Diocese of Covington. Also, this edition highlights the work of the Curia and its staff who have assisted Bishop Foys throughout his episcopacy.

Q. On July 27 you will celebrate you 75th birthday and will be submitting your resignation letter to the Apostolic Nuncio. Why is that and what is the process of naming a new bishop?

A. On a bishop’s 75th birthday he, by Canon law, sends his resignation to the Apostolic Nuncio who communicates it to the Holy Father. Once a bishop sends his letter, a number of things can happen. The Holy Father might accept it immediately, for example because of health reasons. Or the Holy Father can say “I accept your resignation and it will be effective once the new bishop is named”; that bishop would then stay on as the bishop. A bishop could also ask that his resignation be accepted immediately, most often for reasons of health. So there is no clear-cut, one size fits all. If the Holy Father accepts the resignation and it’s effective when the successor is named, then the process begins for naming the new bishop — that process can take anywhere from four months to a year.

Q. As you prepare to submit your letter of resignation, what’s on your heart and mind?

A. People ask me, “Will you miss being the bishop?” The short answer is, I will still be a bishop. Once my resignation is accepted I won’t be an active bishop in the sense of administering the diocese. As far as the administration is concerned, that’s a part of being a diocesan bishop that is for some bishops, and it is for me, difficult because it’s a thin line sometimes between being a pastor and a CEO or COO.

What’s on my heart? I will miss the pastoral side of the episcopacy. I will miss parish visits, I will miss confirmations — I will still go to festivals.

I will still make myself available for pastoral work — pastoral work I haven’t had the chance to do because of the demands of the episcopacy. I recently blessed the Parish Kitchen, and that’s the kind of thing I would like to do, to help out at a place like Parish Kitchen or to fill in when priests need help, when they are on vacation or not well. So I will still be involved in pastoral ministry directly to the people.

What’s on my mind is that I hope that I did a good job. I hope I fulfilled the role of the ministry of bishop to God’s people. It’s a complicated ministry. For example, the ministry of the bishop to his priests; he’s called to be father, brother, teacher and friend. That relationship has been strained among bishops and priests since the onset of the sexual abuse crisis in terms of the trust between a bishop and a priest. The lines are very clear cut what bishops have to do — should do — and because of that, trust between priests and bishop has eroded some. That’s always been a struggle because a bishop is called in Canon Law to be especially kind to priests who are in trouble. Depending on what the trouble is, that can be a challenge. In the end, when I stand before the throne of God, I hope to say that I did the best I could.

Q. What’s the state of the diocese right now?

A. Overall the diocese is doing more than holding its own — I think the diocese is thriving. We have been blessed with good priests, good religious and good people. In 2002, when I first came and we faced the sexual abuse crisis — one of the very first dioceses to face it head on — the state of the diocese was tenuous. All of this was coming out in the open and it was horrific and embarrassing, but our people responded in such a generous way. I don’t mean just financially but just a generous and accepting way with compassion. Now I think the diocese is thriving.

Q. You did a lot of building projects. How were you able to afford to do those? Are we in debt?

A. The diocese itself is debt free. There is some debt on the parishes and schools that did some of these building projects but all of the building projects that we did as a diocese, for example the Curia building, those are all paid for. We could afford it through the generosity of God’s people and their pride in their schools and the pride in their parishes.

Q. Which projects are you most proud of?

A. I am proud of them all, I really am. Each of them has its own reason for having been built, remodeled or renovated and for that parish or school it’s something they are proud of. I am just so proud of the entire diocese that has done this remarkable amount of renovation and building in really a short amount of time to expend $190,000,000.

Q. You did establish some new departments at the Curia, obviously Buildings and Properties. How has that helped the diocese?

A. We would never have been able to do as much building and renovation as successfully as we have without the Buildings and Properties Office. Buildings and Properties Office put together a Building Commission that reviews all plans and looks for the best value that we can get, while at the same time not taking shortcuts. It’s also given us the ability to plan for the future. Some places — and every diocese and parish is like this — we had differed maintenance. That is one of the worst things because you can get to the point where buildings are so deteriorated that a parish comes close to closing or the school is no longer safe. This office has been able to keep us abreast of everything that needs to be done on a regular basis.

Q. When you arrived, Pro-Life ministry was a part of the Family Life department and now it is its own office. How has this ministry grown?

A. As we studied the different ministries in which we were engaged it became clear to me that we needed a greater focus on our pro-life ministry. It is for this reason, and at the request of what had been the Pro-Life Commission without status as a full-fledged diocesan office, that we initiated a Pro-Life Office with a director and a staff. This office has done a remarkable job in promoting pro-life and respect for life at all its stages. It has engaged in this ministry not only locally but also nationally. Pro-life and respect for all life is basic to our belief as Christian Catholics.

Q. One of the biggest accomplishments under Spiritual Works is the Synod. Do you feel like the Synod met its purpose?

A. Yes and no. I think that the Synod brought people from all over the diocese together. The Synod enabled people to look at the diocese and look at the Church, to study the documents that cover the entire life of the diocese — the spiritual life and the material life. For the Synod itself — when we gathered so many people and voted for the Synod documents — the Cathedral was filled. In that respect it was a huge success. What was disappointing was the census. It was just a very difficult time. We were in the throes of the sex abuse crisis and we did not do as well as I had hoped with the census part of the Synod. The census would have given us a clearer indication on what we needed to do in terms of establishing new parishes. Aside from that, the Synod gave us direction — all of the objectives and goals were achieved — and now we have an annual plan that was born of the Synod. It’s time, I think, for a sixth Synod of the diocese, but I will leave that to my successor.

Q. Many of our urban parishes were challenged to do things that I don’t know that they even thought they could do and yet they have done it. How did that happen?

A. In a lot of dioceses, people in urban parishes are just waiting for their church to close and they have no hope. When you give people hope and you give them some assurance that they have meaning and are providing a ministry and a service to others, then they take ownership of their church. That’s why our urban core parishes were able to thrive. First, they were led by pastors who believed in them. Then the parishioners began to believe in themselves. They know their history, which is a rich history of all our parishes and schools, and they want to keep that alive. I don’t think they want to walk out either. They don’t want to say, “I’m the last one out, shut the lights.” These parishes have been around for a long time and they have all held their own.

Q. Bringing Bishop Maes home to the Cathedral, are you glad you did it?

A. I have no regrets about bringing Bishop Maes’ remains back to the Cathedral. He didn’t build the Cathedral as a testament or a monument to himself. He says clearly that he built it for the people of the entire diocese and not just the Catholic people, but all the people. He had come to love Covington. He wanted the Cathedral to be the center of Covington, a place where people could come and pray and see art; a place that would lift people’s minds and hearts to God. For me that’s what our Cathedral does. It goes back to the faith of our people — they sacrificed a great deal to build this monument to God. I felt moved to bring his remains back to the Cathedral he built out of love of God and for the people of this community — Covington.

Q. What’s it like celebrating Mass with Bishop Maes there?

A. From the bishop’s chair you can see directly into the crypt and see his image on top of the sarcophagus. I am very conscious that his remains are there. I never hesitate at any Mass to pray for him and ask him to pray for us. It has changed the way I look at the Cathedral. It was like bringing him home. I was touched to see the Cathedral filled for his requiem Mass; that spoke very highly of God’s people.

Q. How has ministering through the pandemic given you a deeper appreciation for the Church?

A. Ministering through the pandemic has been a real struggle for all of our priests and people and for me. The weeks we were not able to have public celebration of the Mass, were the worst. The most difficult decision I had to make in my life was to suspend Mass — I was the last bishop in the area to do so — because I denied people the Eucharist. As magnificent as our Cathedral is, preaching to an empty Cathedral left a real hole in my heart. Having daily Mass privately in my chapel was difficult because I was doing something that I had denied my people. I was celebrating Eucharist and receiving the Eucharist and I could not do that for the people to whom I minister. Having been denied the privilege of having people in Church heightened my compassion for God’s people and has, really for me, made much more real the fact that the Church is living, breathing people. It is the people of God who make the Church come alive and make the Church beautiful.

Q. You have ordained 41 priests for the Diocese of Covington. Did you ever have any doubts that you would be able to get vocations?

A. I never doubted that we would get vocations. I have preached all my priesthood that the vocations are there; we have to look for them and encourage them. The Lord promised he would never leave us without shepherds. So we began in earnest a vocations program that reached out to people in the parishes — we had people praying for vocations. Success always breeds success and vocations started to come. When I see that I have ordained 67 percent of the active priests in the diocese, it is a very humbling thing. When a bishop ordains a priest, that priest is his spiritual son. When the candidate puts his hands in the bishop’s hands and promises respect and obedience, that’s a two-way street; the bishop is also promising to support and care for this priest who is now his son. Early on I was encouraged to close parishes, to consolidate parishes because we don’t have enough priests. The answer was not to close parishes, the answer is to build and you build by encouraging vocations. I attribute that to our priests and people who prayed for vocations and encouraged vocations.

Q. What are the needs of the diocese now?

A. It’s time for a new confirmation homily. I have preached a confirmation homily that is very similar, if not identical, at every confirmation. People are kind to me; they still comment on it. I try to involve the candidates and find out where they are at this time in their life. Someone questioned why I preach the same homily … because it works. The Gospel is the Gospel. The Gospel message is simply that God loves us. I could find 150 different ways to say it but that’s the Gospel and that’s what I preach. One of my joys has been confirming the over 21,500 confirmation candidates. It’s wonderful to see the excitement in their faces. They have the rest of their life ahead of them and to have empowered them with the grace of the Holy Spirit is a real grace. The Holy Spirit works through all of us. I see the Holy Spirit working through the candidates, their parents and sponsors and it gives me great hope for the Church.

Q. What are things that you think the next bishop will need to work on?

A. When you are in a place for any length of time you don’t always see what needs to be done. I have every confidence that he will see what needs to be done. He will inherit a wonderful presbyterate, laity, staff and consecrated religious. I have no doubt at all that there have been deficiencies in my ministry in the last 18 years and he will see what those are. The Scripture tells us that one man plants, another one waters, another one sees the plant come to fruition — it’s going to be that way.

Q. You are very available to the Curia staff, celebrating baptisms, weddings and house blessings. You often mention that they are your family. Can you elaborate on your relationship with the Curia staff?

A. I will miss working with the Curia staff. I have come to look at them as my family. Working in the Curia, for our staff, is not just a job. The Curia exists to help our parishes and our schools. Unfortunately the Curia is not always appreciated outside of the Curia. I see them day in and day out and I know what they do and I know how committed they are. They are my family, we have shared good times together, we’ve shared bad times together; we have shared successes and we have shared some failures. However, I have found in my 18 years here that they have always been very supportive of me and of our work and our mission. I have tried to be as supportive as I can to them. We work together and we pray together — we are family. I really and truly will miss them. My successor is inheriting a wonderful staff and I hope he comes to know them as a family as I have. I will never forget the wonderful people of the Curia.

Q. How were you able to accomplish all of the work that has been done?

A. I can’t take credit for all of this. What makes me feel good about the work that’s been done is that it is the work of so many priests, deacons, lay people and religious. It’s what happens when God’s people come together and work together.