Holy Family head faced abuse claims

Enquirer, Cincinnati/May 2, 2008

A priest who faced sexual misconduct accusations six years ago was appointed Thursday to lead Holy Family parish in East Price Hill.

The Rev. James Kiffmeyer became the church's new pastoral administrator after a months-long campaign by his supporters in the parish.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk signed off on the appointment, but only after members of the parish held several public and private meetings to discuss whether Kiffmeyer should get the job.

A parish spokesman said the final meeting ended with 92 percent of parishioners in attendance voting to recommend Kiffmeyer.

"He's dedicated to our parish and people see that," said Tom Gamel, the spokesman.

Church officials suspended Kiffmeyer six years ago, at the outset of the clergy abuse scandal, because of accusations involving two men. Both of Kiffmeyer's accusers were 18 at the time the alleged misconduct occurred and were students at Fenwick High School, where the priest was a teacher.

One accuser's claim dates to 1986 and the others to 1990. The archdiocese has said Kiffmeyer reached a "four-figure" settlement with the second accuser.

Kiffmeyer, who has denied the accusations, was suspended in 2002 after the 1986 claim was first reported to church officials.

The Vatican reviewed the accusations, but officials did not pursue discipline because the cases were so old and the statute of limitations had expired, said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco. Kiffmeyer was reinstated in 2006.

Church officials handled Kiffmeyer's case differently than most of the other misconduct cases because his accusers were legally adults, not children.

He would not have been subject to the church's new "zero tolerance" rules on child abuse even if the Vatican had pursued his case.

A victims' advocacy group decried his appointment to a leadership position at Holy Family, saying it was a reckless decision that could endanger children who attend school there.

"It's horrendous," said Christy Miller, co-leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Cincinnati. "They are putting so many people in harm's way."

But Gamel said the parishioners' support of Kiffmeyer shows they are looking forward. "That's in the past," Gamel said. "We're looking at the future, at a person who is going to lead our parish."

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