Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Church memos called proof

Group criticizes prosecutors' action

By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

A victim-advocacy group accused Hamilton County prosecutors Tuesday of ignoring documents that prove the Archdiocese of Cincinnati protected sexually abusive priests.

Leaders of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said memos written by church officials in 1986 show they were aware of abuse allegations and concealed them from the public.

"It's catastrophic that they would have put more children in harm's way," said Christy Miller, president of SNAP in Cincinnati. "They were lying then and they're still lying now."

Miller said the documents, which were discussed Monday at a court hearing in Xenia, raise questions about a plea agreement last year between the archdiocese and Hamilton County prosecutors.

In that agreement, the archdiocese was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report abuse from 1978 to 1982.

Prosecutors defended the agreement Tuesday, saying the deal was the best they could do because all of the allegations they found were too old.

"Had we charged them for these offenses, they would have been dismissed," said Mark Piepmeier, the first assistant prosecutor who helped negotiate the deal.

He said the documents were among more than 10,000 pages of church records prosecutors reviewed as part of their investigation last year. Piepmeier described one of the letters as among the most important he saw.

"If there was an incriminating document, that was it," Piepmeier said.

Church officials said they did not conceal abuse allegations and complained that Konrad Kircher, a lawyer for abuse victims, distorted the meaning of the documents.

Kircher testified Monday that he saw the documents while reviewing a case pending before the tribunal overseeing the archdiocese's $3 million victim compensation fund.

In a 1986 memo, Kircher said, former priest personnel director Paul Rehling wrote a letter to Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk after he learned of an abuse allegation from another priest. According to Kircher, the memo advised the archbishop to steer the alleged victim away from a civilian counselor.

Church spokesman Dan Andriacco said church officials made mistakes in their handling of past abuse cases but never sought to hide them from law enforcement.


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