Arrested Priest's Record Confidential, Bishop Says

By Brenda J. Breaux
The Cincinnati Enquirer
February 27, 1993

NEWPORT, Ky. _ Personnel records on a priest accused of sexually abusing a teen-ager will reveal further allegations of child abuse and other crimes, Campbell County officials argued in a court document filed Friday.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Steven Schiller sent the document to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Frankfort in response to an appeal filed Feb. 17 by the Covington Diocese. The diocese is seeking to overturn a Feb. 3 order by Circuit Court Judge William Wehr to turn over records on the Rev. Earl Bierman to a Campbell County grand jury.

Bishop William Hughes is arguing that the records must remain private to protect the confidentiality of complainants and that they are privileged under the same Kentucky laws that protect priests from revealing admissions made in confession. In his response to the diocese's appeal, Schiller said state police detective Bob Scott has found 51 people who say they were sexually abused by Bierman. Kurt Phillipps, Bierman's attorney, did not return telephone calls Friday.

State police learned of church records containing allegations against Bierman from people who had complained to the diocese. The people did not say their complaints were confidential, the document states. Also, the Rev. Roger Kriege, who is responsible for diocese records, told police the files were not protected under the priest -penitent relationship, Schiller said.

"Only by an extreme stretch of logic could it be said that concerned Catholics, writing to the diocese to advise that it had a dangerous sexual deviant within its ranks, were the seekers of spiritual advice," the document states.

On Friday, Bierman, 61, of Erlanger, remained in an isolation cell on suicide watch in the Campbell County Jail. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with terroristic threatening and retaliating against a potential witness. Bierman allegedly threatened to kill himself and Mount Washington Press reporter Greg Flannery, who broke the story about the charges against the priest.

Before the arrest, Bierman had been out on a $ 5,000 bond after turning himself in Dec. 8 on two charges of sodomy involving an incident with a child in 1974.


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