Priest on Extended Leave Returns to Ministry after Vatican Actionpriest on Extended Leave Returns to Ministry after Vatican Action

Catholic Online
January 8, 2007

Cincinnati (CNS) - Father James Kiffmeyer, a priest of the Cinncinnati Archdiocese, has been returned to active priestly ministry as a result of a recent action by the Vatican. He has been on leave for more than four years.

Father Kiffmeyer took personal leave from the priesthood in April 2002 after an allegation of sexual misconduct was made against him. Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk later put him on administrative leave, which meant that he was unable to celebrate the sacraments, wear clerical garb or in any other way function as a priest.

There were two allegations of sexual misconduct made against Father Kiffmeyer. Both involved drinking, and both accusations came from students at Fenwick High School who were 18 or older at the time of the alleged events.

The first allegation from 1990 was brought to the attention of the archdiocese in 1997. Father Kiffmeyer reached a four-figure settlement with the accuser.

The second incident was said to have occurred around 1986 and was brought to the attention of the archdiocese in April 2002.

To date, there have never been allegations of misconduct with persons under 18 against Father Kiffmeyer. No civil suits were filed, nor were criminal charges brought against him in either matter. He has denied that any sexual misconduct occurred.

After being placed on leave, Father Kiffmeyer became employed and entered counseling. He sought recourse from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, however, contending that Archbishop Pilarczyk's actions prohibiting him from using the title "Father," from referring to himself as a priest, from wearing clerical garb, from publicly celebrating the sacraments and from exercising priestly ministry were not in accordance with canon law.

After reviewing his file, the Congregation for Clergy found in Father Kiffmeyer's favor, ruling that the prohibitions noted above were actually penalties imposed on Father Kiffmeyer that should not have been imposed, because the statute of limitations, known as "prescription" under church law, had expired five years after the alleged incidents took place.

In its essence, the ruling by the Congregation for Clergy lifted the prohibitions placed on Father Kiffmeyer by Archbishop Pilarczyk.

In a decree dated Nov. 25, 2006, however, the Congregation for Clergy directed Father Kiffmeyer "to avoid situations and persons which might endanger his living up to his priestly commitment, and ... to closely guard his own personal behavior so that no further scandal be caused by any of his actions."

His next assignment is under study by the Priest Personnel Board of the archdiocese.


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