April 29, 2005

News, Star-Telegram seek access to abuse allegations

The Dallas Morning News

08:48 PM CDT on Friday, April 29, 2005

By BROOKS EGERTON / The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked a judge Friday to unseal records of sexual abuse allegations against priests who worked in the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese.

Last year, Tarrant County District Judge Len Wade ordered the diocese to surrender the records in a lawsuit that accused Bishop Joseph Delaney of employing known predators.

But the judge kept the records secret and ordered the plaintiffs to do the same. The newspapers say the records should be released because they concern matters affecting public health and safety.

"We're not aware of any authority for putting these documents under seal and believe that the public not only has a right to see these documents but also would be interested in their contents," said David Starr, deputy general counsel for Belo Corp., which owns The News.

The diocese recently agreed to settle the abuse lawsuit, without admitting wrongdoing, by paying two accusers of the Rev. Thomas Teczar a total of $4.15 million. Bishop Delaney employed the priest from the late 1980s to early 1990s, after a Massachusetts diocese barred Father Teczar from ministry because of misconduct with boys.

Documents sought by the newspapers regard other priests, whom public court files don't name.

In a letter to parishioners last year, Bishop Delaney said eight clerics who worked in the diocese after its 1969 founding have been accused of "improper sexual behavior with a minor." He did not name the priests.

Posted by kshaw at April 29, 2005 11:24 PM