Attorneys Want Access to Records of Church Abuse Investigation

Associated Press, carried in
June 24, 2004

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. - Attorneys for 23 people who claim they were molested by a Roman Catholic priest want a judge to force the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to release records related to an internal investigation of alleged sexual abuse.

The plaintiffs' attorneys say some of the documents may already have been destroyed, The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., reported Thursday.

Church officials say that allegation is based on a misunderstanding and the information still exists. But they want Circuit Judge Daniel Donahue to grant an order allowing them to withhold some of the data, saying the plaintiffs' requests for information are too broad.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Tuesday in Clark County Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs claim in a lawsuit that the Rev. Albert Deery, who died in 1972, molested them as students at St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School in Jeffersonville during the 1950s and 1960s.

The suit contends that the archidiocese failed to discipline Deery and to warn students, their parents and others about the alleged molestations.

The plaintiffs, including Clark County Superior Court Judge Steven Fleece, want to know if Deery was one of 20 Indiana priests whom a church investigation found had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors since 1950.

Archbishop Daniel Buechlein divulged the finding to Indiana church members in February. The finding resulted from the sweeping investigation ordered in the wake of the churchwide scandal.

"They won't tell me where they got that number. They won't tell me who those people are. They will not give me any information," said Karl Truman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The Courier-Journal reported that archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Borcherts confirmed in an interview last week that Deery was one of the 20 priests.

But Borcherts told The Courier-Journal that the church had been instructed by researchers not to keep copies of the completed surveys on which the report was based.

However, she said, "all source records used to answer the survey are still here."

The information from the surveys also is contained in a computer database generated as part of the study, said Karen Terry, the principal researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The archdiocese, however, contends that some of the plaintiffs' requests for information are "irrelevant, overly broad, unduly burdensome ... and not sufficiently defined," Borcherts said.

The archdiocese also argues that claims can be brought only within two years of the alleged abuse or within two years after a victim's 18th birthday, both of which have long since expired.

Truman argued that archdiocese officials were aware of the alleged abuse and "covered it up." That kept the time limit from going into effect until the plaintiffs found out about the alleged cover-up, he said.


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