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Archdiocese Said Withholding Records

Apr 19, 2002 | AP

A battle over church records of possible child molestation escalated into angry recriminations between a prosecutor and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In an extraordinary move, prosecutors subpoenaed the archbishop to appear before a grand jury, but then excused him after the church released information, officials said.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, a former president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Chancellor Christopher Armstrong both received summons to discuss child abuse allegations Thursday.

Pilarczyk, 67, was excused because the archdiocese turned over requested information, Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen said. He wouldn't say what the information entailed, but he said Pilarczyk's summons is still active, meaning he could be called to testify later.

Armstrong testified Thursday, but Allen and the archdiocese would not discuss what he said.

Prosecutors had sought information about the identities of people who had reported or investigated child abuse allegations, as well as possible victims and offenders.

"In essence what we got was 'you want it, you find it,'" Allen said. "Well, guess what? That's what we're in the process of doing. That's not cooperation. That's why Rev. Armstrong is where he is today."

An attorney for the archdiocese was angered by Allen's remarks, calling them "inappropriate and inaccurate," and called a news conference to rebut the accusations.

"It is our position that we are fully complying with the grand jury's request for information," said attorney Mark Vander Laan. "The idea that we are not cooperating and not providing what we legally can provide is very unjust."

The archdiocese said it was willing to cooperate with the investigation but it wanted a grand jury subpoena first, which it said would keep church records confidential unless there was a criminal indictment.

Pilarczyk, archbishop of Cincinnati since 1982, is the first American archbishop to be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, said David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Allen had asked for the information after Pilarczyk said some priests accused of child abuse in the past were still working in the archdiocese after undergoing treatment. The archbishop said those priests were in positions where no problems would occur and were being monitored.

Allen said it was his job, not the church's, to determine if crimes had been committed and if anyone should be prosecuted.

The Roman Catholic church has struggled with sexual abuse scandals nationwide since January, when documents revealed Boston church officials had long ignored complaints against a now-defrocked priest convicted of molestation. Dozens of priests have been suspended or forced to resign.

Elsewhere Thursday:

_In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn gave prosecutors the names of 21 priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors, bringing to 36 the total number of priests it has identified to civil authorities. A small number of the 36 were still actively serving as priests, said diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa.

_Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit wrote a letter addressing the abuse scandal to be read at Saturday and Sunday services. Maida, leader of about 1.4 million Catholics in the archdiocese, apologizes to victims and for "mistakes made by Church leaders — here and elsewhere — in managing this situation."

_ The Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., placed the Rev. James Behan on administrative leave this week after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a teen-ager nearly 25 years ago.

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