Pedophile Priest Says Church Offered Him Clandestine Deal
By Hugh Aynesworth
May 17, 1991
New Orleans - The Rev. Dino Cinel, who has admitted several years of sexual activity with young boys in St. Rita's church rectory, returned here yesterday unrepentant, self-assured and angry at Roman Catholic Church officials.
The Italian-born priest sat for lengthy interviews in his attorney's apartment after his arrival from New York. His mood was combative and he expressed no remorse.
In a slight Italian accent, he readily agreed that for several years he had sought out young boys in New Orleans' French Quarter and taken them back to the church rectory for sexual relations and alcohol and drug use.
That was not new. He had already admitted that in a lengthy deposition last August.
Father Cinel has told his attorney, W.D. Atkins, and others that when he was telephoned by then-Archbishop Philip Hannan in Italy on Dec. 29, 1988 - the day the church discovered 160 hours of videotape of the priest with seven different boys in sexual poses - he was told that if he would quietly resign and leave, the church would try to help him avoid criminal prosecution.
When asked to refine this claim last August, Father Cinel backed off a little - but not all the way. When the retired archbishop was deposed in January, he was not specifically asked.
On Wednesday the church, in a prepared statement, said, "No deal to Cinel to avoid criminal prosecution or civil liability was either offered or implied." Yesterday church spokesman Tom Phinney reiterated: "There was no such deal. If there was a deal, why in the world would we have turned it over to the district attorney?"
Peter Kovacs, metro editor of the Times-Picayune, said one of his reporters interviewed Father Cinel about 1 a.m. yesterday and thought the priest seemed confident he was in no danger of criminal trouble.
"His spin on the whole thing is, 'I didn't do anything wrong. What I did, I did not take advantage of my collar to do it . . . or the church, or my position. I did things that anyone is allowed to do with consenting legal adults.' And that is the essence of what he said," Mr. Kovacs said.
Much of the coverage in New Orleans, while expressing shock at Father Cinel's behavior, has focused on the church's handling of the scandal.
"There seems to be a great sense of outrage," said Jason Berry, an expert on church dealings with homosexuality and celibacy. "And it is not the kind of outrage you might expect, from people saying, 'Why are you attacking the church?' I sense, this time, a tremendous sense of betrayal."
The church has made no excommunication attempts against Father Cinel, Mr. Phinney said.
"That's in extreme cases," the church spokesman said. "Under Catholic theology, once you are ordained a priest, you're a priest forever, no matter what you do."
Mr. Berry, whose forthcoming book, "Lead Us Not into Temptation," deals with what he terms "the sexual Watergate" of the church, said the church's handling of the affair is not atypical.
"When one realizes the lengths to which Hannan went in the Goethe case in Lafayette, one would expect he might have handled this situation better," he said.
The Rev. Gilbert Goethe, who had molested dozens of schoolchildren, plea-bargained for a 20-year sentence without parole in 1984 and the church paid millions to several families. Then-Archbishop Hannan, on orders from the Vatican, interceded with lawyers to iron out a settlement so the church would not be embarrassed by a protracted trial, Mr. Berry said.
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