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#84988 - 09/14/02 12:07 AM Priest records remain closed
orodo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/15/02
Posts: 735
Loc: Imladris, The Safe Haven of Ar...
http://www.pressherald.com/news/state/020913priests.shtml

Friday, September 13, 2002

Priest records remain closed

By JOHN RICHARDSON, Portland Press Herald Writer

Copyright 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
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The state does not have to immediately release records of allegations of sexual abuse involving Catholic priests who have since died, a judge has ruled.

Kennebec County Superior Court Justice S. Kirk Studstrup said that in six months he will reconsider whether the records should remain confidential.

But even when the records don't need to be sealed to protect ongoing investigations, concerns about privacy could still prevent the release of all or some of the allegations, Studstrup wrote in his four-page ruling.

The decision, at least temporarily, rejects a petition filed by the Blethen Maine Newspapers, which publishes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

"We are disappointed that the court did not order immediate and complete disclosure," Sigmund Schutz, the newspapers' lawyer, said Thursday.



"We are disappointed that the court did not order immediate and complete disclosure," Sigmund Schutz, the newspapers' lawyer, said Thursday.

Schutz said the court agreed, however, that the documents cannot be deemed permanently confidential based on the chance that disclosure could interfere with law enforcement.

"Up until the present, the state has taken the position that the documents are confidential forever. At least the court has not entirely agreed with that at this point," he said.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who argued the case for the state, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The newspapers urged the court to unseal the records based on a strong public interest in the contents of the files. The information was turned over to prosecutors by the Diocese of Portland in May, as allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Roman Catholic Church in New England and around the country.

Records in Boston and other cities have shown how church leaders mishandled allegations of sexual abuse by keeping the charges secret and moving the priests to other parishes.

The Blethen Maine Newspapers asked for the records involving dead priests because those men could not be the subjects of active criminal investigations.

The company also said privacy issues are diminished because the priests named in the files are dead.

The Attorney General's Office argued that the records still should not be released because they could contain information related to investigations of living priests, who could be prosecuted.

Robbin, the assistant AG, also argued that some of the allegations are old and unsubstantiated and that it would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy to release them.

Studstrup said he accepted the argument that investigators have only had the information for a short period and that "information contained in the reports might lead to prosecutions that are still viable or affect ongoing investigations."

"The court agrees with the Attorney General that these reports, as a group, should remain confidential at least for the immediate future," Studstrup wrote.

"However, the court will retain jurisdiction and at an appropriate time require the Attorney General to make a showing for continued confidentiality on a document-by-document basis."

Studstrup ordered the Attorney General's office to report to the court and the newspapers in six months on the status of the documents for law enforcement purposes. "More detailed analysis may be necessary at that time," he wrote.

Studstrup did not rule on the privacy arguments, saying "this issue will have to be addressed at such time as disclosure of the documents would no longer interfere with law enforcement."

However, Studstrup suggested in his ruling that he could consider the privacy interests of the priests' family members as a reason to keep records confidential.

Some adults who say they were childhood victims of sexual abuse by priests have called for the release of the records, either by the Diocese or the court. They say public disclosure of abusive priests would help them heal from the psychological injuries, encourage other victims to come forward to get help and make it more difficult for other priests to get away with abuse in the future.

"It's extremely important for survivors to know that they're not alone, that there are other victims of the same perpetrator," said Michael Sweatt, a leader of Maine's Chapter of Voice of the Faithful, an organization of Roman Catholic laity that formed in response to the church sex scandal.

"If they had a true interest in initiating healing on the part of survivors, then they would release the names."

Sweatt said the Portland Diocese should have directly disclosed publicly the reports of past allegations, as church leaders in Boston and other cities have done. If a priest had several allegations against him, and had been transferred to multiple churches, parishioners should know, he said.

"It's discouraging that the court system is continuing to protect the church in this case when history has shown that the church has not properly handled these cases," Sweatt said.

The Portland Diocese has not been directly involved in the case, and has said the decision about disclosure should be left to the state and the court rather than the church.

"The person who is deceased doesn't have a chance to defend themselves," said Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the Diocese. "There are family concerns - people who may not even know (about the allegations)."

Bernard said while some dioceses have released old records, most have not.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

jrichardson@pressherald.com

_________________________
It is better to be Dragon Master than Dragon Slayer. Some Dragons are meant to be mastered, others meant to be slain. Odin, Great Spirit, God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference. "May the Valar guide and bless you on your path under the sky"

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#84989 - 09/14/02 12:11 AM Re: Priest records remain closed
orodo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/15/02
Posts: 735
Loc: Imladris, The Safe Haven of Ar...
THEY ARE F*CKING DEAD... How is that gonna screw up an investigation???????? Some survivors can't even remember their dead perps names. So much healing from the Church leaders, the government....God Bless America...

_________________________
It is better to be Dragon Master than Dragon Slayer. Some Dragons are meant to be mastered, others meant to be slain. Odin, Great Spirit, God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference. "May the Valar guide and bless you on your path under the sky"

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