Judge Won't Let Public See Files of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Justin Zaremba
September 15, 2017
|From left, the Revs. Michael "Mitch" Walters, Robert Gibney and William Giblin.(NJAM file photo)|
The Archdiocese of Newark received a protective order on Friday shielding the personnel files of three priests accused of sexual abuse from being disclosed to the public.
Five men and one woman have alleged The Rev. Michael Walters sexually abused them between 1982 and 1995, and a former member of Sacred Heart Parish who attended Seton Hall Preparatory School claims he was abused by two priests at those institutions, the Revs. Robert Gibney and William Giblin, respectively, in the 1960s.
Gibney and Giblin died earlier this decade, but Walters is still alive.
Avram Eule, the attorney for the Archdiocese, said these cases involved "alleged abuse" requiring extensive discovery on their part, and, as in other cases, they've sought a protective order "to protect the ... alleged priest as well as the reputation of the Archdiocese (of Newark)."
Eule also argued these documents should be kept under a protective order, which only permits parties to the lawsuit to view and discuss their contents, due to confidential information within them, and the separation of church and state.
Greg Gianforcaro, local counsel for the alleged abuse victims, criticized the Archdiocese's position, saying it previously claimed it would be "open and transparent" with regard to sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.
"(The Archdiocese has) indicated a willingness, to be, quote, use their words not mine, 'open and transparent,' and I'm just curious and I don't understand how a protective order advances those goals of being 'open and transparent," Gianforcaro said.
When Cardinal Joseph Tobin took the reins of the Archdiocese of Newark last year, he told the New York Times he hoped to lead with joy and transparency.
Gianforcaro also said there was a "societal interest" in not permitting the protective order.
"What we're talking about is alleged pedophilia," Gianforcaro said. "Sexual abuse of minors. That is what we're talking about. There is, in situations like this, a public policy that the courts are really not supposed to enter into protective orders because the public has a right to know about this type of information."
Essex County Superior Court Presiding Judge Dennis F. Carey III ruled in favor of the protective order saying other people mentioned in the personnel files might have privacy interests in having their information disclosed, but said Gianforcaro could later seek to have it vacated.
Carey also said in his questioning of Gianforcaro that protective orders should be subject to a case-by-case basis.
Eule said after the hearing he believed the judge's ruling was fair.
The main attorney for the alleged victims, Mitchell Garabedian, of Boston, told NJ Advance Media the sexual abuse of five of his clients took place while Walters was assigned to St. Cassian Church in Montclair, while Walters' other alleged victim was abused while the priest was at St. John Nepomucene in Guttenberg.
All of the victims were abused while they were between the ages of 11 and 14, said Garabedian, who was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the 2015 film "Spotlight."
Garabedian, who wasn't present for Friday's hearing, said the church had returned "to its old ways" and was attempting to re-victimize abuse victims through the litigation process.
"(Cardinal Joseph) Tobin is sending a loud and clear message the Archdiocese of Newark has abandoned its pastoral approach in trying to resolve clergy sexual abuse claims," Garabedian said.
Garabedian said the question remains "where were the supervisors" when the abuse occurred. "During this approximatedly 13-year time period, the supervisors (of Walters) either didn't do their jobs properly or turned their backs on innoncent children," he said.
Messages placed to the Archdiocese of Newark Friday afternoon haven't yet been returned.