Fr. John E. Leonard – Diocese of Richmond

Father John E. Leonard

Diocese of Richmond

Ordained: 1965

Removed: 2004

Died: 2015

Assigned as follows:

  • Church of the Epiphany (Richmond, VA)
  • Norfolk Catholic High School (Norfolk, VA)
  • Saint John Vianney Seminary (Richmond, VA)
  • Saint Michael (Richmond, VA)
  • Saint Paul (Portsmouth, VA)
  • Saint Thomas More (Lynchburg, VA)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father John E. Leonard:

Father John E. Leonard, a priest for 39 years, served in multiple parishes until he became the pastor at Saint Michael Catholic Church in Glen Allen, which he founded in 1991. According to media reports, in 1996, a child sexual abuse allegation against Father Leonard was reported to the Diocese of Richmond. He denied any wrongdoing and after a psychological evaluation indicated he was not an abuser, he remained in ministry.

In 2002, a man accused Father Leonard of repeated sexual abuse during his freshman year at St. John Vianney Seminary. He had visited the campus as an eighth-grader and prospective student. Father Leonard visited the boy’s family in Norfolk to promote the school. 

“He convinced my parents it was a good place, a safe place,” he said.

The man was the fourth ex-Vianney student to publicly accuse Leonard of sexually abusing him during the 1970s, when Leonard was on the faculty. He described one encounter in which Father Leonard brought the man and another boy to his room and gave them beer. The victim was given a pill for a headache and from then on, he only remembered distorted faces and woke up on Father Leonard’s bed about 12 hours later.  For reasons he did not understand at the time, he had semen in his rectum.

In May 2002, Father Leonard was removed from ministry. In June 2002, Bishop Sullivan reinstated him after he overruled the review committee, causing outrage over his decision to disregard the results of the internal investigation. 

In October 2003, Leonard was named in a civil lawsuit, but it was later dismissed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. That same year, criminal charges were filed against Leonard for the abuse. He was initially charged with felony sex offenses, but those were reduced when he made a plea deal.

Leonard was once again removed from ministry in January 2004. He was sentenced to two consecutive 12-month jail terms and probation in March 2004.

Father Leonard resigned from the ministry shortly after Cardinal William Keeler put him on administrative leave. He died in 2015. 

In February 2019, his name appeared publicly on the Diocese of Richmond’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Richmond.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Richmond, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Richmond now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Call us at (888) 283-9922 or send an email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.