NFL's New Orleans Saints fight releasing emails in Catholic sex abuse lawsuit

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(CNN) — The New Orleans Saints are fighting a legal request to make public emails they sent to Catholic officials in a sex abuse lawsuit.

The Saints acknowledged in a statement released Friday that Greg Bensel, the team’s senior vice president for communications, advised the Archdiocese of New Orleans on handling media attention before the 2018 release of names of clergy removed because of abuse allegations. The archdiocese reached out to a number of community and civic leaders for advice before the names were released, including Bensel.

The emails were obtained in a lawsuit by a man who claims he was abused by a New Orleans priest as a child.

“Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia,” the plaintiff’s attorneys argued in a court filing.

The attorneys want the correspondence between the team and the Archdiocese entered into the public record, claiming it doesn’t meet the standard for confidentiality. Attorneys for the Saints argue the emails are unrelated to his case and should be limited to the parties to the lawsuit and their attorneys.

In the statement, the Saints said they want the normal rules of civil lawsuits applied to the case in which the emails should remain confidential unless admitted into evidence.

“If admitted into evidence of the case, the documents and the testimony pertaining to them will become part of the public record of the trial of the case,” the statement said.

The Associated Press first reported earlier this week that the Saints would oppose the release of the emails.

The Saints are not defendants in the lawsuit.

In a statement, the Saints said their “advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted.”

The Saints “remain offended, disappointed and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy,” the statement said. “We remain steadfast in support of the victims who have suffered and pray for their continued healing.”

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