Bishop Defends Contempt Charge
Chicago Tribune [Carbondale IL]
May 5, 2004
CARBONDALE -- The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday defended his diocese's refusal to release the mental health records of a retired priest accused of sexual abuse, saying priests' rights have to be balanced with those of alleged victims.
"Priests have been saying their privacy rights have been trashed," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, whose Belleville Diocese was held in contempt of court for refusing an order to release the records.
The diocese is appealing the Feb. 27 court order, arguing the records should remain confidential because they date back to when such records were protected by Illinois privacy laws. The diocese has already released hundreds of documents about the priest to the court but wants a higher court to rule on the matter before releasing any more, Gregory said. Lawyers expect a decision later this year.
The plaintiff's lawyer, Michael Weilmuenster, criticized the diocese's latest move as hypocritical since it had called on church leaders to deal with allegations with openness. "I'm so perplexed at the diocese's action of continuing to use legal technicalities to address taking care of the victims."
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