Civil Court: No Decision on Saints, Catholic Church Emails After Hearing

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 27: A New Orleans Saints helmet is pictured during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 27, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The decision over whether to make emails between the New Orleans Saints and Archdiocese of New Orleans public remains unresolved, according to ESPN's Mike Triplett

The involved parties in the case argued in front of Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson on Thursday. Gill-Jefferson said she "will give her recommendation on how to proceed to presiding Judge Ellen Hazeur after reviewing Thursday's arguments and the briefs that were submitted by attorneys."

The case centers on communication between the Saints and archdiocese as it was planning to release a list of clergy members accused of sexual abuse of minors.

The Associated Press' Jim Mustian reported Jan. 30 the plaintiffs in the case argued the Saints had worked with the archdiocese to identify which names to include or exclude in the list:

"Plaintiffs' attorneys alleged in earlier court papers that Saints executives joined in the archdiocese's 'pattern and practice of concealing its crimes,' and one email from late 2018 referred to Saints Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel joining unnamed 'third parties' in a discussion about 'removing priests from the pedophile list.' It was not clear which other Saints officials may have been involved."

Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement confirming Bensel's contact with Archbishop Gregory Aymond and the archdiocese but said he provided only public relations guidance and did not offer input on specific clergy members:

"Greg informed me that his recommendations were consistent with the Archdiocese and included: be honest, complete and transparent; own the past wrongs and find a solution to correct them and then define those solutions that are in place now to protect victims; be a leader in the Church by being the first Archdiocese in the country to release the full list of names, release all of the names of clergy that have credible evidence against them, regardless of whether they are male/female, dead or alive; and make sure that all law enforcement are given these names prior to the Archdiocese releasing them so they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Benson added the Saints were "proud of the role we played."

Although Bensel used his official Saints email account, an attorney for the church told the court Thursday he wasn't working as a representative of the team when communicated with the archdiocese, per Triplett.

Per Mustian, an AP analysis suggested the list the archdiocese released "underestimated the actual number of publicly accused clergy members in the region by at least 20."

Mustian, Reese Dunklin and Brett Martel reported for the AP that Benson and her late husband Tom had donated $62 million through their foundation to the archdiocese "and other Catholic causes" in the past 12 years.

The Bensons also had a close relationship with Aymond. He helped arrange a meeting for them with Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, and he served as an official witness when Tom amended his will to leave the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans to Gayle.

The NFL hasn't officially weighed in on the matter, and The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan reported the league is content to avoid any involvement "unless Saints emails show troublesome actions."

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