Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Diocese of Bridgeport Loses U.S. Supreme Court Effort to Keep Documents Sealed

For a group that claims remorse over the sexual abuse scandal - largely with disingenuous crocodile tears - the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy goes to incredible lengths to keep the Church's dirty linen from public view. As has always been the case in the sex abuse scandal, the main concern has been protecting the Church's reputation rather than truth and justice. Truth be told, the Church leaders from the Pope on down are a bunch of dissembling frauds many of whom knew exactly what was going on and chose to cover up abuse and leave children and youths at risk. Only full exposure of all of the misdeeds will help guaranty that such evil doesn't happen again and perhaps convince more Catholics to vote with their feet and their wallets to demand real change and a thorough house cleaning of the hierarchy. Money and membership numbers are the only things that truly count with the Church leadership. Here are some story highlights on Diocese of Bridgeport's failed effort to hide the truth:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese's request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.
A Waterbury Superior Court said in 2006 that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access. And the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision, ruling that more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests should be unsealed. The Connecticut high court also rejected the claim by church officials that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.
The records have been under seal since the diocese settled the cases in 2001. They could provide details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000. The documents include depositions, affidavits and motions.
Personally, I hope the documents when finally made public will show that Egan - who previously had been one of Cardinal Law's henchmen in the Boston Archdiocese scandal - acted like so many bishops and cardinals and sacrificed children in favor of the Church's reputation.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

The Catholic Church has behaved incredibly badly in the entire sex scandal. However, in this case, they negotiated in good faith with plaintiffs, and the trial court accepted the terms of the agreement. Those terms included the sealing of the documents obtained in discovery. Long after the case was settled, papers that were not parties to the original case, have sought to have the documents made public.

Could this be done in other cases? Could a newspaper argue that a sealed divorce case be made public? Could individuals' medical records be made public long after a class action suit has been settled?

This is a bad precedent, and the Catholic Church's misadventures should not mask the larger principle.