April 15, 2005

Priest Files Hold Special Meaning to Alleged Victims

Sacramento Union

By Gilian Flaccus, The Associated Press
Published: April 15, 2005
LOS ANGELES—While money has dominated public discussion of Roman Catholic molestation cases in California, recent legal struggles over the release of confidential clergy files highlight another tension: the privacy rights of accused priests versus victims’ need to shame the church.

The day before a Northern California jury awarded two brothers nearly $2 million for alleged sexual molestation by a priest, the state Supreme Court quietly blocked the release of documents detailing the sexual histories of dozens of Los Angeles priests. Also Tuesday, accused priests in Orange County announced they would fight their diocese’s agreement to allow the public release of their private files.

Both developments were a blow for plaintiffs, who fought for the release of their alleged abusers’ personnel files, saying the exposure would validate their stories, help bring closure and prevent future abuse.

Attorneys for the priests say the disclosure would throw open the kinds of documents widely accepted as private: medical and psychological records, attorney-client communications and employment records.

“What we’re talking about are pretty fundamental privacy rights,” said Donald Steier, attorney for 26 of the 117 Los Angeles priests.

Posted by kshaw at April 15, 2005 04:58 PM