Unseal the Records in Priest Scandal

Connecticut Post [Connecticut]
September 28, 2004

The state Supreme Court can create a significant victory for the First Amendment rights of citizens by unsealing thousands of documents in the priest abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

The court heard arguments last week from attorneys for a group of newspapers seeking access to the documents and diocesan lawyers who seek to keep the records sealed.

Twenty-three sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese and six of its priests were withdrawn in 2001, after the diocese agreed to pay $12 million in settlements.

However, a full explanation of how the abuses occurred or were handled by diocesan bishops has never been forthcoming.

For example, New York Cardinal Edward Egan, who handled cases when he was bishop of Bridgeport, has come under harsh criticism for failing to notify authorities of the abuse allegations and moving accused priests to other parishes despite the charges.

By keeping the records sealed, the church continues to cast doubt and shame on itself.

There was no stipulation in the diocesan settlements that sealed the records and public disclosure of the documents is welcomed by most of the victims.

A Superior Court judge in May 2002 ordered the files unsealed but he was overruled by the state Appellate Court.

Now a final determination resides with the state Supreme Court justices, who must opt on the side of the public.


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