Friday, March 22, 2002

Lawyers view church records

No new abuse allegations involving priests

By Jim Hannah and Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CRESTVIEW HILLS — Prosecutors learned Thursday that alleged sexual misconduct involving three still-active Roman Catholic priests took place in Campbell County before 1994.

        All the incidents had previously been reported to police, and no new cases surfaced during the meeting, prosecutors said.

        The cases were discussed at the law firm of Deters, Benzinger & LaVelle. in a meeting between top prosecutors for three Northern Kentucky counties and two lawyers representing the Diocese of Covington.

        As Kentucky prosecutors got their first look at church records Thursday, Ohio prosecutors were still waiting for a response to their request for records from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The archdiocese is expected to respond to the prosecutor's request sometime today. At Thursday's meeting, Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Bill Crockett said he asked for the dates, locations and other details about the alleged abuse. Although the names of the alleged abusers were not revealed, Mr. Crockett said, enough details were provided that it was easy to determine their identity.

        He said the names of the alleged victims also were not discussed.

        “They answered every question we had,” said Mr. Crockett. “We are comfortable they are being forthright. And they have cooperated fully from the first time we contacted them.”

        “Our goal was to answer completely and fully whatever questions they had,” said Kurt Philipps, an attorney for the Diocese of Covington. “We've cooperated fully with the people who met with us.”

        Mr. Philipps said the prosecutors wanted more details on the three priests in question, as well as information on “matters involving Earl Bierman,” an ex-priest who received a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 1993 to 25 molestation charges involving six adolescent boys in the 1960s and '70s. Mr. Bierman was a priest, counselor and teacher at three schools, including Newport Catholic High School.

        The prosecutors also asked what actions the diocese has taken to ensure that children are currently not at risk, Mr. Philipps said.

        The diocesan lawyers explained a 22-page policy on dealing with sexual misconduct and how that was followed in the cases in question.

        The Diocese of Covington covers 14 counties in Northern Kentucky, including Boone, Campbell and Kenton.

        Mr. Crockett said he will take no further actions because the cases are not in his jurisdiction. Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney Jack Porter did not return messages.

        His counterpart in Boone County, Linda Tally Smith, who also attended the meeting, couldn't be reached for comment.

        In Ohio, Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen has given church officials until the end of the week to turn over records related to priests accused of sexual misconduct.

        He asked for the records after Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk disclosed that the church had substantiated abuse allegations against fewer than five priests in the past 15 years.

        Enquirer reporter Dan Horn contributed.


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