of St. Louis Must Turn over Names...
By Jennifer S. Mann
February 5, 2014
|The Archbishop of St. Louis
Robert Carlson conducts a special Mass of Thanksgiving for
Pope Francis at St. Louis Cathedral Basilica on March 21,
2013. Photo By David Carson, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. LOUIS • Ordered by the Missouri
Supreme Court to reveal the names of priests credibly accused of
sexually abusing minors — and of the victims — the Archdiocese of
St. Louis said Wednesday that it would comply.
The identities would be provided only to lawyers
pressing a lawsuit and would be sealed from the public.
The Archdiocese had stubbornly fought such a disclosure,
blowing past several deadlines set by St. Louis Circuit Judge
Robert Dierker and taking its appeal to the state’s top court.
The only recourse would have been to try to get the U.S. Supreme
Court to accept the case for review.
The ruling, issued by a full panel of judges, will open
new doors to lawyers who sued in 2011 on behalf of a woman, then
19. She said she was sexually abused from 1997 to 2001 by the
since-defrocked Rev. Joseph Ross, who previously had been
convicted of abusing a minor.
The lawyers are trying to show that church officials had
a pattern of ignoring warning signs and of shuffling abusive
priests to other parishes, rather than addressing allegations and
preventing future abuses.
As part of the suit, the archdiocese released an
anonymous matrix of 240 complaints made against 115 church
employees over a 20-year period ending in 2003. It deemed only 40
of those complaints “unsubstantiated.”
It was not clear how many of the 115 were priests;
Wednesday’s order covered only priests and victims.
Dierker decided the anonymous list was not enough, and
ordered that the names must be turned over to the woman’s
attorneys, with the exception of the unsubstantiated cases. He
also ordered the release of victims’ names.
Dierker’s order includes provisions to ensure that
victims are to be contacted by a court-appointed attorney, not
directly by the woman’s attorneys.
On Wednesday, the archdiocese said in a statement that
it fought the disclosures “to protect the privacy rights of all
involved, including victims who had no connection to current
litigation and who had come forth confidentially regarding their
reported allegation. The requested information includes not only
names, but also addresses and phone numbers.”
“We appreciate the concern given this case throughout
the appellate process, and although we share the disappointment
of the many innocent individuals who will be affected by it, the
Archdiocese of St. Louis will comply with the court order entered
by the Missouri Supreme Court,” the statement continued.
Ken Chackes, an attorney for the woman, said that the
ruling “will make it much more difficult for this Archdiocese and
others to keep their secrets and to continue to enable known
pedophiles to hurt children.”
The information provided to date, while vague, has
provided more detail than ever before on how the abuse scandal
within the Catholic Church played out locally.
Legal settlements and trials have forced similar
disclosures in a number of other dioceses across the country,
according to a
list maintained by BishopAccountability.org.
What makes Dierker’s order in St. Louis particularly
unique, Chackes said, is that it comes while the case is still
pending — when more can be learned through depositions and the
The release of the names will allow the plaintiff’s
attorneys to investigate each claim on their own, and take
testimony from those within the church who were familiar with the
accused and the alleged abuse. It also allows them to compare
what the archdiocese released with what they already know from
victims’ advocacy groups and prior lawsuits.
Chackes said it was too soon to tell whether he would
seek a delay of the trial, now set for Feb. 24, to provide time
to absorb the new material.
He said that the victims’ names absolutely would not be
revealed in the courtroom, but that he would argue that names of
credibly accused priests might be. He also intends to fight for
the disclosure of further documents on each allegation.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a victims
advocacy group, released a statement Wednesday urging victims to
come forward and report abuse, given that the priests’ names will
be kept under court seal. They also put out a call for public
“For the third time, a court has basically told
Archbishop (Robert) Carlson to turn over records about 115 child
molesting St. Louis clerics. We hope he complies,” Director David
Clohessy said in the statement.
“And we hope Carlson’s flock insists that he also reveal
how much money he’s spent just on his hard-ball ‘delay and
attack’ strategy in this one case.”