Victims Fight Court Order in Civil Suit Involving Once-accused Priest
By Valerie Schremp Hahn
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 22, 2016
People who made accusations against Roman Catholic priests filed an emergency motion in federal court on Friday, saying that their rights will be violated if a survivor's group follows a judge's order to hand over personal information of accusers in another case.
Meanwhile, late Friday night, the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests filed a document saying they will join with the other victims in their emergency motion to stay the order.
SNAP is among those being sued by the Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang, who is seeking damages. He had been named in Lincoln County and St. Louis in charges that were later dropped.
The victims who filed the emergency motion are not connected to the Jiang suit but said they were assaulted by other priests, but they have privacy concerns because of the judge's order in the Jiang case.
David Clohessy, director of the group, said earlier Friday night that group leaders didn't know yet what they would do or how the victims' motion would affect the judge's order involving the group. They had until midnight Friday to decide.
“We haven’t made any final decisions, “ he said, “but continue to struggle with how we can comply with the order without betraying, jeopardizing or revictimizing parents, witnesses, whistleblowers, supporters, concerned parishioners and other groups that work with crime victims.”
U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson ordered that SNAP produce documents including emails, text messages and contact information for the accusers. The order says federal law does not guarantee privacy in the production of pre-trial evidence.
One of the three victims involved in the emergency order is dead, and he is being represented by his parents.
The victims argue that SNAP is a rape crisis center and their communications should be protected, and that they have a right to intervene. They argue that it is up to the victim to decide whether to provide such information. They also ask that the psychotherapist-patient privilege be extended to cover communication with SNAP, and says federal courts have done the same thing in other cases.
“Should this court's order stand, any person accused of rape and desirous of learning his victim’s whereabouts, statements to rape crisis centers, and/or identities of witnesses and any other information contained in the statutorily confidential documents, he or she need only file a federal lawsuit for defamation and Civil Rights violations, serve discovery, and thus obtain instant access to information statutorily protected as confidential under the state’s substantive law," the motion says.
Jiang sued last year, saying he was defamed and denied due process.
Bill Hannegan, of the group Friends of Fr. Joseph, said that the group wonders if SNAP is hiding a conspiracy to ruin the priest’s reputation. Jiang's attorneys were looking for evidence to support such a theory, according to an earlier court filing. “At this point, we’re just hoping for father to be exonerated," said Hannegan Friday. "I believe that all father wants is for his name to be cleared.”