No surprise here: The Diocese of Bridgeport will try to go to the top, the U.S. Supreme Court, to prevent the release of court documents related to sex abuse.
The diocese explains its rationale on its website. The diocese asserts:
“From the very beginning of these court cases, the Diocese asserted that it was a violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment for the courts to second-guess a Church’s selection and evaluation of ministers. The United States Supreme Court has expressly ruled that this is outside the proper role of civil authorities.”
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says this:
“No one wins here except a handful of self serving, secretive top Catholic officials whose complicity in child sex crimes remains hidden even longer. This is more evidence that there has been virtually no reform in the church hierarchy despite repeated pledges of openness about pedophile priests.
For any victim, witness or whistleblower who has kept quiet, hoping bishops have reformed, this is the reason and now is the time to speak up, protect others, and call police.”
Here’s the AP story in full:
Associated Press Writer
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut sought Friday to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep under wraps sex abuse documents that could shed light on how a prominent retired cardinal handled the allegations.
Bridgeport Diocese officials asked the state Supreme Court to continue a stay on releasing the documents while it appeals to the nation’s highest court.
The state court has ruled that more than 12,000 pages of documents from more than 20 lawsuits against priests should be released. Those documents have been sealed from public view since the diocese settled the cases in 2001.
The records could reveal details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was Bridgeport bishop from 1988 to 2000. Egan’s deposition should be in the file, according to an attorney for the newspapers seeking the documents.
In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned after church records were released detailing his role in handling sexual abuse claims.
The Brideport Diocese faced a Monday deadline to appeal before the records were disclosed.
“The diocese believes there are important constitutional issues,” said Ralph Johnson III, attorney for the church. “These are issues important to all citizens.”
Johnson acknowledged that the nation’s highest court takes up only a small percentage of cases it is asked to review.
The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Hartford Courant have been seeking the documents. Jonathan Albano, attorney for some of the papers, said that he would object to continuing the stay and that the case really involves state law that has been resolved.
“It’s somewhat disappointing that the diocese continues to approach the litigation in a way that delays the public’s right to see these documents,” Albano said. “There’s been seven years of litigation.”
An advocacy group for victims of church sexual abuse condemned the latest appeal.
“We’re disappointed that the complicity of top Catholic officials continues to remain hidden,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “This is not what Connecticut Catholics or citizens deserve. It’s one more painful reminder that bishops will do everything possible to protect themselves and their colleagues instead of children.”
Church officials said that the media have reported on the cases extensively and that attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents. Court officials declined to comment.
A Waterbury Superior Court judge ruled in 2006 that the files should be unsealed, but the diocese appealed. The high court agreed with the trial court that the documents, which include depositions, affidavits and motions, were subject to a presumption of public access.
Church officials say the ruling fails to uphold the privacy and constitutional rights of all parties to lawsuits, especially when cases are sealed, and contends that disclosure of the sealed documents is barred by the religious clauses of the First Amendment.
The state Supreme Court rejected church officials’ claim that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.