Church Denies Cover-Up of Priest
By Hugh Aynesworth
May 16, 1991
New Orleans - Archbishop Francis B. Schulte denied yesterday the Roman Catholic Church tried to cover up for the Rev. Dino Cinel after it was known he had appeared in sexual poses with several young boys and animals during 160 hours of confiscated videotape.
The church, the archbishop said, sought no preferential treatment from investigating authorities, suspended the priest immediately and made no deal with Father Cinel to help him avoid criminal prosecution.
The archbishop's denial, delivered in an eight-page typed statement, came after a deluge of media coverage Tuesday night and yesterday. The reports not only reviewed the original story in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Times but harshly questioned the church's role in handling the situation.
"The sensationalized reports by the local media Tuesday in the matter of Dino Cinel," the statement began, "are so misleading and false that a response from the church is necessary.
"Because of an ongoing criminal investigation and a civil lawsuit, the church, on advice of legal counsel, refrained from discussing details of this matter. The case has now been so prejudiced against us by these sensational news reports that we must reply."
Archbishop Schulte was informed of the scandal in late February 1989, he said, a few days after he became the leader of more than 550,000 church members in the metropolitan New Orleans area.
Retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan had handled the expulsion of Father Cinel from St. Rita's, he said, hours after the materials were accidentally found (in December 1988) in the priest's office while he was on a trip to his native Italy.
In yesterday's statement, the archbishop said Father Cinel had been recommended by church officials in San Francisco who knew nothing about "any improper activities."
Father Cinel was given an apartment on the third floor of St. Rita's rectory for nine years while he taught at Tulane University and said Mass and instructed novitiates at St. Rita's.
Three other priests lived on that floor. "Neither the priests nor the staff of the rectory were aware of any improper conduct," yesterday's statement said.
Responding to questions about a 90-day delay between finding the materials and turning them over to the district attorney, the statement said, "our attorneys had to examine them to determine if indeed they included pictures of juveniles as opposed to consenting adults."
The statement closed: "It should be noted that by his own admission in depositions, Cinel's activities were confined to young men he picked up in the French Quarter and did not involve any young people in St. Rita's parish."
The confiscated videotapes showed Father Cinel, seven different young men and some dogs.
For nearly two years after Father Cinel was told he had been removed from his duties he remained on the Tulane faculty. Last year he accepted a "distinguished professor" chair in history at City University of New York-Staten Island. He is now married and has a child.
No criminal charges have been brought against Father Cinel. Harry Connick, Orleans Parish district attorney, said his office had encountered trouble lining up complainants in some cases and that statutes of limitations had run in others.
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