Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Clergy abuse suits stay, for now

Attorney: Alleged victims want 'truth'

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Judges in two counties refused to throw out clergy abuse lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati this week, setting the stage for a court battle over access to church records.

The decisions in Greene and Darke counties are a first because most abuse lawsuits filed against the archdiocese in the past two years have been dismissed because judges ruled the claims were so old that Ohio's statute of limitations barred them from court.

But the Greene and Darke county judges, Timothy Campbell and Jonathan Hein, concluded more facts are needed before they decide whether to allow the lawsuits to move forward.

That means the alleged victims may get access to church records about two priests - Keith Albrecht and Thomas Hopp - and may be entitled to question some church officials about how they dealt with abuse allegations.

In each lawsuit, unnamed men claim the priests sexually abused them when they were teenagers in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and that church officials knew or should have known the priests were a risk.

Albrecht was at St. Luke Church in Beavercreek at the time of the alleged abuse. Hopp was assigned to St. Michael Church in Fort Loramie.

"My clients and I are thrilled that we are now going to get to the truth of the matter," said Konrad Kircher, the Mason lawyer who filed both lawsuits.

A spokesman for Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk could not be reached, but the archdiocese's lawyer, Mark VanderLaan, said the question of whether the cases should be dismissed is not over.

He said about a dozen such cases in Hamilton County already have been dismissed because of the statute of limitations.


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