New Orleans Saints fighting release of emails with Catholic church

The New Orleans Saints want to keep emails exchanged with the local Roman Catholic archdiocese private and are going to court to try to shield the correspondence, according to an Associated Press report.

The emails could show that the team was assisting the Archdiocese of New Orleans in managing the fallout from a sexual abuse scandal through public relations strategies, according to a court filing.

The request to bring the documents to light was filed on behalf of more than 20 men who believe the emails could show the Saints helped the archdiocese to hide crimes committed by clergy. The emails in question are from 2018 and 2019.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the Saints said they were among the "community and civic minded leaders" contacted by the archdiocese in November 2018 as it sought advice about how to work with the media once the names of 57 clergy members who were accused of sexually abusing minors in prior years were released.

"The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted," the statement said, adding that the team and owner Gayle Benson "remain offended, disappointed and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy." The statement adds: "We remain steadfast in support of the victims who have suffered and pray for their continued healing."

The Saints said they are not trying to hide information from the public but rather are just asking the court to apply 'the normal rules of civil discovery."

"Until the documents are admitted into evidence at a public trial or hearing in the context of relevant testimony by persons having knowledge of the documents and the events to which they pertain, the use of the documents should be limited to the parties to the case and their attorneys. 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 team statement said.

Arguments on the matter are expected to be heard in the next few weeks before a decision is made on whether the documents can remain private.

Benson has donated millions of dollars to Catholic institutions, the AP reported. When her husband, Tom Benson, died in 2018, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond accompanied her during the funeral procession.