Hundreds of emails allegedly detailing the New Orleans Saints' efforts to conduct damage control for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis should remain private, a court official recommended Thursday.
The recommendation by a court special master came almost three months after The Associated Press urged the release of the confidential emails as a matter of public interest.

Those emails emerged as part of a lawsuit against the church and it will ultimately be up to a presiding judge in that case to make the final decision.
On Thursday, retired Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson wrote a five-page filing, arguing that publicizing the messages would only 'embarrass or bring under public scrutiny' those who tried to help the Archdiocese of New Orleans as it sought to weather the fallout from the clergy abuse crisis. 
Gill-Jefferson agreed with church leaders and the Saints that the communications were private, writing that 'the exchange of information during discovery is to be held within the confines of the pending litigation and outside of public view.'
Attorneys for about two dozen men suing the church have alleged the emails show that the NFL team, whose owner is devoutly Catholic, aided the church in its 'pattern and practice of concealing its crimes.'
The Saints have denied any wrongdoing in the matter. 
The Saints have close ties to the archdiocese, and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond is a close friend of team owner Gayle Benson (left), who inherited the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team when her husband, Tom Benson (right), died in 2018
Ties between local church leaders and the Saints include a close friendship between New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond (right) and Gayle Benson. The archbishop was at Gayle Benson's side as she walked during her late husband's funeral procession
One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Richard Trahant, said he will object to Gill-Jefferson's recommendation, which has not yet been adopted by the judge presiding over the lawsuit.

It was not immediately clear when the judge would rule on the issue.
The Saints have said they have nothing to hide and that the team does not object to the emails being made public during a later stage of the litigation.
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The Saints acknowledged giving church leaders advice on how to handle media attention surrounding the 2018 release of a list naming more than 50 clergy members 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse.
The Saints have close ties to the archdiocese, and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond is a close friend of team owner Gayle Benson, who inherited the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team when her husband, Tom Benson, died in 2018.
Gayle Benson has given millions of dollars to Catholic institutions in the New Orleans area, and Archbishop Aymond is a regular guest of hers at games and charitable events for the church.

He was also by her side during her husband Tom's funeral procession. 
Attorneys for the men suing the church say 'multiple' Saints personnel, including Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel, used their team email to advise church officials on 'messaging' and how to soften the impact of the archdiocese's release of a list of clergy members 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse.
Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia talk to New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond as they leave St.

Louis Cathedral in New Orleans on June 15, 2018
'The information at issue bears a relationship to these crimes because it is a continuation of the Archdiocese's pattern and practice of concealing its crimes so that the public does not discover its criminal behavior,' the plaintiffs' attorneys wrote.
'And the Saints joined in.' 
Attorneys for the Saints acknowledged in a previous court filing that the team assisted the archdiocese in its publishing of the credibly accused clergy list, http://pypic.cc/home.php?mod=space&uid=1451032&do=profile&from=space but said that was an act of disclosure - 'the opposite of concealment.'
Retired Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson wrote a five-page filing, arguing that publicizing the messages would only 'embarrass or bring under public scrutiny' those who tried to help the Archdiocese of New Orleans as it sought to weather the fallout from the clergy abuse crisis.

She agreed with church leaders and the Saints that the communications were private, writing that 'the exchange of information during discovery is to be held within the confines of the pending litigation and outside of public view'
A handful of Saints emails that emerged last year in the clergy abuse litigation included an October 2018 exchange in which Bensel asked an archdiocese spokeswoman whether there might be 'a benefit to saying we support a victims right to pursue a remedy through the courts.'
'I don't think we want to say we "support" victims going to the courts,' Sarah McDonald, the archdiocese's communications director, replied, 'but we certainly encourage them to come forward.'
The Associated Press, which has extensively covered clergy sexual abuse in a series of stories over the past year, filed a motion with the court supporting the release of the documents as a matter of public interest.
'This case does not involve intensely private individuals who are dragged into the spotlight,' the AP argued, 'but well-known mega-institutions that collect millions of dollars from local residents to support their activities.'
The Saints released a statement following the AP's motion in January.
'The advice was simple and never wavering,' read the statement.

'Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted.
'The New Orleans Saints, Greg Bensel and Mrs. Gayle Benson were and remain offended, disappointed and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy.
We remain steadfast in support of the victims who have suffered and pray for their continued healing.' 
Saints leadership including from left to right, team President Dennis Lauscha, GM Mickey Loomis and Senior VP of Communication and Broadcasting Greg Bensel watch as head coach Sean Payton speaks during a news conference at the NFL football training facility in 2106. Attorneys for the men suing the church say 'multiple' Saints personnel, including Bensel, used their team email to advise church officials on 'messaging' and how to soften the impact of the archdiocese's release of a list of clergy members 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse.
This September 21, 2019, file booking image made from video and provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office in New Orleans shows George F.

Brignac. Brignac, a longtime schoolteacher and deacon who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy accused him of fondling him at a Christmas party
The fight over the emails is part of a flurry of claims filed against the archdiocese over its employment of George F.
Brignac, a longtime schoolteacher and deacon who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy accused him of fondling him at a Christmas party. That accusation followed claims that Briganc abused several other boys, including one case that led to his acquittal in 1978 on three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile. 
Church officials permitted Brignac, 85, to act as a lay minister until local news accounts of his service in 2018 prompted his ouster and an apology from the archdiocese.

The AP last year reported that Brignac, despite his supposed defrocking, also maintained access to schoolchildren and held leadership roles as recently as 2018 in the Knights of Columbus.
Following a new wave of publicity - in which Brignac told a reporter he had touched boys but never for 'immoral purposes' - Brignac was indicted last month on a rape charge that could land him behind bars for the rest of his life.

The prosecution came more than a year after a former altar boy told police that Brignac repeatedly raped him beginning in the late 1970s. Police said the abuse began when the boy was 7 and continued until he was 11. 
The archdiocese, meanwhile, has settled several lawsuits against Brignac and included the former deacon in the list of more than 50 names it released in late 2018 of 'credibly accused' clergy.
A lawyer for the archdiocese said in January that the plaintiffs' attorneys seeking the release of the Saints emails were engaged in a 'proverbial witch hunt with respect to decades-old abuse.'
The attorney, E.

Dirk Wegmann, told the special master that the plaintiffs only want the Saints emails released so they can give them to the media and 'unfairly try to tar and feather the archdiocese.'
Gayle Benson (pictured) has given millions of dollars to Catholic institutions in the New Orleans area, and Archbishop Aymond is a regular guest of hers at games and charitable events for the church.

He was also by her side during her husband Tom's funeral procession.

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