Priest's Suspension Is over
Archdiocese Will Reassign Kiffmeyer to Clergy Work
By Janice Morse
December 30, 2006
The Rev. James Kiffmeyer, a priest who had been on leave for almost five years because of sexual misconduct allegations, has been returned to active ministry, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced Friday.
It was not clear Friday where he would serve.
The archdiocese said Kiffmeyer has many supporters in Greater Cincinnati, and that he was reinstated because he exercised his right to appeal the suspension to the Vatican in Rome.
A group representing sexual-abuse victims criticized the Vatican's decision.
Kiffmeyer, formerly assigned to Elder High School in Price Hill and Fenwick High School in Middletown, went on personal leave in April 2002 after allegations from 1986 and 1990 surfaced.
Both cases involved allegations of sexual misconduct and providing alcohol to students at Fenwick, but the boys were at least 18 at the time of the alleged offenses, the archdiocese said.
The first allegation to emerge concerned a 1990 incident and was reported to the archdiocese in 1997. In that case, Kiffmeyer reached "a four-figure settlement with the accuser," the archdiocese said.
The second case involved a 1986 incident that was reported to the archdiocese in 2002.
Shortly after the second case emerged, the archdiocese placed Kiffmeyer on administrative leave, which barred him from celebrating the sacraments, wearing clerical garb or performing other priestly duties.
Kiffmeyer is being returned to active ministry following counseling.
The Vatican's Congregation for Clergy found that Kiffmeyer should not have been penalized because people waited too long to complain about his alleged misconduct.
Under church law, people have a five-year time limit for making such allegations, the archdiocese said.
"After a number of years, it can be very difficult to establish the truth," said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese.
Christy Miller of West Chester Township, spokeswoman for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was outraged about Kiffmeyer's return to the ministry.
"No way!" she exclaimed Friday when told about the Vatican's decision.
"Kiffmeyer was removed because of an allegation that the archdiocese found to be credible," she said. "I don't understand how he could be allowed to return to ministry after that."
Kiffmeyer's successful appeal was based on a time limit expiration, not on the validity of the complaints, Andriacco said. He also emphasized that none of the accusations involved children.
No civil suits were filed and no criminal charges were brought against Kiffmeyer in either case; he denied that any sexual misconduct occurred.
However, in a decree dated Nov. 25, the Congregation for Clergy directed Kiffmeyer "to avoid situations and persons which might endanger his living up to his priestly commitment, and he is to closely guard his own personal behavior so that no further scandal be caused by any of his actions."
Andriacco said he did not know where Kiffmeyer was living or how to reach him for comment Friday.
The archdiocese's Priest Personnel Board will decide where to assign Kiffmeyer, somewhere within the 19 southern Ohio counties under the Cincinnati Archdiocese's supervision.
According to its Web site, 10 other Cincinnati Archdiocese priests have been suspended because of sexual misconduct allegations; many of those cases remain under Vatican review, Andriacco said.
He did not know when decisions would come on those other cases. But Miller predicts many of those cases will be resolved like Kiffmeyer's.
"Mark my words: They will not be defrocked. They will be returning to the ministry," Miller said.
To follow cases
People interested in monitoring sex-abuse cases involving local priests can go to www.catholiccincinnati.org. Click on "Protecting our Children," then "Status Report on Clerics Credibly Accused of Child Abuse."