The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus refuses to release files about clergy members accused of sexually abusing children, as requested in a lawsuit.
Diocesan attorneys called Lebanon attorney Konrad Kircher's recent motion to compel the release of the files "demonstrably wrong" and the requests "irrelevant," according to a response filed Friday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
The case, originally filed by Kircher on July 5, involves 30-year-old Kevin Heidtman, who says he was sexually molested six times by the late Monsignor Thomas Bennett, a teacher at St. Charles Preparatory School in Bexley, during the 2002-03 school year. The suit names the diocese, Bishop Frederick Campbell and St. Charles as defendants.
Since Heidtman's case was filed, Kircher said, two other former students have come to him alleging that Bennett abused them as well, and two additional former students have said they witnessed others being abused by Bennett.
On Feb. 8, Kircher filed the motion to compel the diocese to release all diocesan documents that refer to allegations of sexual contact, misconduct or exploitation by clergy members since 1950. Kircher originally requested the information in late September.
"Recognizing the frailty of his claims based upon relevant information that has been produced in discovery, Plaintiff now seeks irrelevant information concerning clergy other than Monsignor Bennett," the diocese's response says.
The diocese declined to comment Wednesday, saying it doesn't discuss pending litigation.
Kircher said the diocese's files are relevant in the case because the Roman Catholic Church and the diocese knew about the problem of clergy members sexually abusing children for years and could have warned parents and children of possible harm.
In its response motion, the diocese said "this 'guilty by association' theory is legally and logically flawed."
Kircher said he has other cases to support his position. "Many, many courts have disagreed with their reasoning," he said.
In the early 2000s, Kircher said, a judge ordered the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to provide all of its relevant files on sexual abuse in a case he fought there.
The Columbus diocese said in September that it would publicly release a list of credibly accused clergy members, joining a national trend. It has yet to do so.
Anyone who might have experienced sexual abuse by those associated with the Roman Catholic Church is encouraged by the diocese to contact law enforcement and the diocesan Victims' Assistance Coordinator at 614-224-2251, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms for reporting abuse can be accessed from the diocesan website: www.columbuscatholic.org.