Southern Religion

Coming: Documentation of the church’s handling of priestly sexual abuse [Update & Addendum]

Release of documents generated for sexual abuse lawsuits against priests in a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut came a step closer Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene, and news stories will certainly follow from those documents.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan may be even less happy than when he wrote FOUL BALL! last week, accusing the New York Times of “anti-catholicism.” One might legitimately wonder whether his criticism was motivated in part by the prospective release of those documents. Preparations intended to cushion the impact were certainly being made elsewhere.

The documents promise to be revealing of internal church handling of sexually predatory clergy. That is in part why New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and the Hartford Courant “have been fighting for eight years to get the documents unsealed.” They include more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests.

A little is already known about what they contain. As the Hartford Courant explained:

Among the court documents are three depositions by former Bishop Edward Egan, who was in charge of the Bridgeport diocese when most of the lawsuits against priests under his control were filed and adjudicated. Egan retired last year as the archbishop of New York.

The Courant obtained copies of [former Bishop] Egan’s depositions, which show that he knowingly transferred priests who had been accused of sexually molesting boys to different parishes and rarely removed an alleged pedophile priest from service.

Dolan’s attempts to minimize the magnitude of church mishandling of decades of priestly sexual predation aren’t likely to reflect well upon him as revelations from the release of these documents are considered.


The Courant reports: “A status conference on how the documents might be made public will be held Nov. 9 at Superior Court in Waterbury.”

The Bridgeport diocese responds, still arguing the correctness of its case:

We were disappointed to learn that the United States Supreme Court has decided not to hear our case. The Court reviews only about 80 cases out of more than 10,000 cases presented, and regularly reminds the public that it must decline to review many cases that were wrongly decided by the lower courts. Unfortunately, ours was one of those cases.


Archival Courant stories indicate why the documents may be revealing:

  • Now-retired New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese, protected abusive priests.
  • Psychiatric hospital doctors believe they were deceived by the Roman Catholic Church to provide cover for the transfer of abusive priests.
  • Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in disgrace “for protecting sexually abusive priests and covering up their misdeeds.”

November 3, 2009 - Posted by | Catholic, Crime | , ,

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