November 16, 2005

Judge tells AG to release church records in abuse cases

Burlington Free Press

Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

By Sam Hemingway
Free Press Staff Writer

Church records and documents connected with the state's criminal investigation into claims of past clergy sex abuse by Catholic priests in Vermont can't be kept confidential, a Chittenden County Superior Court has ruled.

Judge Ben Joseph, presiding over 13 cases alleging past sexual abuse of children by priests, said the release of the documents is needed to understand the extent of the purported misconduct and what the state's Catholic diocese did about it.

"The public interest in the disclosure of information about the alleged sexual abuse suffered by the plaintiff and others, as well as the effective administration of justice, outweighs the desire for confidentiality," Joseph wrote in his ruling released late Monday.

Jerome O'Neill, the attorney for the alleged 13 victims, praised the decision. He said until now, the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has been less than forthcoming in responding to his pre-trial disclosure requests.

Posted by kshaw at November 16, 2005 01:18 PM