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  Retired Prelate Denies Deal with Pedophile Priest Cinel

By Hugh Aynesworth
Washington Times
May 20, 1991

New Orleans - The Roman Catholic Church came under unwanted scrutiny last week because of the way it handled the case of the Rev. Dino Cinel, a New Orleans priest who videotaped his sexual exploits with teen-age boys.

The priest says the church offered him a deal: If he would leave quietly, the tapes and materials would be withheld from authorities, making criminal prosecution difficult if not impossible.

Church officials, who refused to be interviewed before the story broke last Tuesday in The Washington Times, quickly went public and vehemently denied there was any such deal.

Caught in the middle was Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, a member of St. Rita's Church, where Father Cinel served for nine years.

Mr. Connick was given four large boxes of tapes, pictures and other materials about three months after they were found in Father Cinel's private quarters in the church rectory in December 1988. But he refused to seek an indictment.

Mr. Connick told The Times his office had difficulty getting witnesses to come forth on some potential cases and said the statute of limitations had run out in others. But he told others last week that he had another consideration: not to embarrass the church.

Father Cinel, the 49-year-old Italian-born priest, returned to New Orleans last week. With a self-assurance that surprised some, he accused retired Archbishop Philip Hannan of lying when he denied under oath that the church had attempted a cover-up.

"I believe the bishop lied, believing he was doing the right thing because he lied for the good of the church," Father Cinel said.

In a letter in the Times-Picayune yesterday, Archbishop Hannan vehemently reiterated that there was no deal. He described as "patently absurd" one news report that claimed he considered withholding some of the more lurid materials from the district attorney.

"Any part of that evidence would be enough to convict an accused person," he added.

In a January deposition in a civil suit, Archbishop Hannan swore he had never seen any of the materials. He said the church withheld them for more than 90 days because its lawyers wanted to make sure none of the seven youths pictured were church members' sons.

The bishop, who retired within weeks of the discovery of the 160 hours of videotapes and other pornographic materials, reacted strongly when told Father Cinel was threatening a lawsuit against the church for invasion of privacy.

"I am shocked," he said last week, "that after being so outrageously sinful in his conduct, he is accusing me."

The current uproar emanated from an August 1990 civil deposition Father Cinel made admitting decades of homosexual relationships, first with an older priest in Rome and later with young boys in several U.S. and Canadian cities.

 
 

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