Jury Has Questions for Diocese

By Kimball Perry
The Cincinnati Post [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded November 15, 2003

A special Hamilton County grand jury will begin putting questions Monday to Archdiocese of Cincinnati officials about their possible cover-up of allegations of sex abuse.

The special grand jury is the second convened by Hamilton County prosecutors in the last two years to investigate the issue.

In April 2002, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk was subpoenaed to appear before a special grand jury -- empanelled, ironically, after Pilarczyk a month earlier admitted there were church employees still working for the archdiocese who had sexually abused kids.

Pilarczyk is a likely candidate to be subpoenaed again because, as head of the 19-county archdiocese, he has explicit knowledge of how it works, the complaints of sexual abuse made and how they have been handled.

Hamilton County prosecutors have battled with archdiocese attorneys since the first special grand jury was convened over access to church documents to determine if church officials have properly reported allegations of sex abuse against minors by church employees -- or have hidden such claims and related information.

Last year, the church's canonical lawyer or chancellor, the Rev. Christopher Armstrong, testified before the grand jury about the internal working of the archdiocese.

Prosecutors insist they can't know if allegations are being properly handled -- and reported to police -- until they view all of the documents they believe they have the right to see.

Church attorneys say prosecutors have everything they are allowed to see -- and that judges have viewed all of the material in question, proof they are hiding nothing.

The archdiocese, spokesman Dan Andriacco notes, disputes prosecution assertions it is required by law -- at least in some cases -- to report abuse claims.

Like social workers aren't required to report abuse allegations if they are old, Andriacco said, neither are archdiocesan officials.

"We think that should apply to us," he said, noting many recent allegations of abuse date back years or decades.

The Hamilton County investigation comes as lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by the church are pending across the country, and dozens of other cases have been settled for millions of dollars.

The investigation of the Cincinnati archdiocese has been contentious from the start. In two hearings this week, archdiocese attorneys told an appeals court that prosecutors were misrepresenting information and then suggested to another judge prosecutors might be manipulating the makeup of the pool of prospective grand jurors to stack the panel in prosecutors' favor.

That drew a rebuke from a judge who said prosecutors were correctly questioning potential jurors to ensure those selected could be fair and impartial.

Monday also is the deadline imposed by the Cincinnati-based First District Ohio Court of Appeals for archdiocese attorneys and prosecutors to submit written reasons explaining their positions on whether documents filed in the case should be open for public inspection.

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